Chester board eyes shortfall, ‘edging’ toward balance

By Shawn Cunningham
©The Chester Telegraph — 2014

Entering the last quarter of the year and with budgeting ahead, the Chester Select Board’s attention at its Oct. 1 meeting was focused on money. With the collection of taxes and water and sewer bills lagging, storm expense awaiting reimbursement and the underpayment of the emergency services bill by the insurance company representing P&H Trucking in the May tanker rollover, there was plenty to talk about.

Responding to the board’s concern about a possible shortfall in the 2014 budget, town manager David Pisha presented figures to show that – using last year’s experience as a guide – the town projects a shortfall of $276,000, but that several things coming together in the last quarter will bring it closer to balance.

Citing anticipated revenue from tax sales of between $100,000 and $144,000 and a Vermont Agency of Transportation reimbursement for expenses related to the flooding of July 28, Pisha said, “We are rapidly edging very close to break-even by the end of the year, barring any unforeseen catastrophe.” According to Pisha, highway expenses would be down but for that storm and the Agency of Transportation is putting together an emergency highway recovery grant that would reimburse the town for the $77,000 spent to recover. Noting that the process is ongoing, Julie Hance, assistant Pisha, agreed that it was conceivable that the funds could come in by the end of the year. “A lot of pieces have to line up for that to happen,” cautioned Hance.

Tanker wreck insurance shortfall

One piece that has not quite lined up is the reimbursement for expenses the town’s emergency services crews incurred in May when a P&H Trucking tanker rolled over on Route 11 west, leaking 2,500 gallons of gasoline.  Crews were on the scene from early morning till dusk securing the scene and offloading 10,000 gallons of gasoline. The town submitted a bill for $41,000 on behalf of the towns that responded with $21,000 going towards Chester’s expenses. The check received from the insurance company however, was $2,300 short of those figures.

According to Pisha, Fire Chief Matt Wilson contacted the insurance company and was told, “That’s what we decided and that’s what you get.” Wilson tried to speak with someone beside the adjuster but the company was unresponsive. Pisha said Wilson wanted to pay the other towns’ aiding departments and that Chester would take the $2,300 hit.

Board member Derek Suursoo moved that the shortfall be shared by all the responding departments. Board member Bill Lindsay agreed, noting that budget time is coming soon, and “we’ll be looking for $2,000 here and $3,000 there.” Board member Arne Jonynas said he was fine with the way Wilson intended to pay the assisting departments in full. The motion passed with Suursoo, Lindsay and Tom Bock voting for and Jonynas voting against.

With budgeting on the horizon, the board also revisited the idea of finding a better investment vehicle for the Chester Economic Development Fund, which was created as a loan source to help Chester businesses with such items as capital investments that would strengthen them.

Noting that it was the board’s intent to pay the Springfield Regional Development Corp.’s annual $8,000 assessment with the interest from the CEDF, and that the interest from outstanding loans only covers half of that, board chairman John DeBenedetti renewed his call for a better return. The largest part of the fund is sitting in a conventional checking account and has earned just $53 in interest this year. The board once again discussed the options, recommendations from advisors and the town’s attorney and talked about hearing from the wealth management division of People’s Bank.

“It’s almost embarrassing that we haven’t done anything,” said DeBenedetti.

Ambulance service proposes new solution to volunteer shortage

Members of the Chester Ambulance Service appeared before the board to discuss a plan to work with another service in a nearby town to cover the need for certified personnel during the difficult-to-cover hours of 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. Monday through Friday this winter. Coordinator Dan Cook explained that people who are at work during the day can’t respond and if there’s a storm and he is operating a town snowplow, he can’t stop for an ambulance call.

This arrangement would be outside those proposed at the Sept. 3 meeting. Cook also proposed raising the pay of the service members who have taken on more chores this year then making it retroactive. Cook noted that there are fewer members and so the payroll is well under the budgeted target. Board members agreed that this was the town manager’s call and urged ambulance service members to keep thinking about solutions to make the service stable.

As the budget process begins, the board resolved to put the budget first on the agenda and to be less wordy in an attempt to get more residents to attend the meetings. A discussion ensued.

The Select Board also scheduled a meeting for town officials from surrounding towns to hear a presentation on the new changes to the open meetings law. It is tentatively scheduled for 6 p.m. Tuesday Oct. 28 in the Newsbank Conference Center.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Filed Under: ChesterFeaturedLatest News

About the Author:

RSSComments (0)

Trackback URL

Comments are closed.