Public Funds bring tidy return, Hearse House project to receive grant

Chester Beautification Committee is seeking funds to rehab the 19th Century Hearse House.

Chester Beautification Committee is seeking funds to rehab the 19th century Hearse House.

By Shawn Cunningham
© 2015 Telegraph Publishing LLC

The three-member board that oversees more than a dozen funds given to the town for designated purposes met Tuesday to hear from representatives of People’s Bank who manage the $660,000 public funds portfolio and to announce a grant to support the rehabilitation of the Hearse House at the Riverside Brookside Cemetery.

Gary Gibbs and Remus Preda of People’s United Wealth Management told Sandra Walker, Shirley Barrett and Erron Carey, Trustees of Public Funds, that a conservative, balanced approach to investing had yielded a return of about 9 percent before People’s management fee of approximately 1 percent.

Gibbs told the trustees that between 40 and 60 percent of the funds are invested in stock while the rest is held in cash, bonds and “real assets.” Gibbs described the real assets as “commercial real estate and precious metals” noting that this “diversification tactic” helps even out the ups and downs in value across time.

The funds managed by the trustees are gifts to the Town from people who wanted to underwrite certain activities. There are more than a dozen funds that supply moneys to the library, the cemetery, Chester schools, scholarships and other undertakings. Several funds are from the 19th century with the oldest dating to 1879.

After the investment presentation, the Trustees told a group that is raising funds to rehabilitate the Hearse House that they would grant $5,000 from the Cemetery Fund to help with the work. “It’s too bad that it hasn’t been done on an ongoing basis,” said Trustee Shirley Barrett. “Town funds should be set aside each year for the upkeep of public buildings.”

“I hope you can do some strong fundraising,” said Barrett.

Tory Spater, who is spearheading the Hearse House efforts, explained that the group has cash and firm commitments for $10,925 toward the rehabilitation cost of about $29,000 and that the public funds contribution takes the group past the halfway mark.

“I hope the town will assume some responsibility,” said Trustee Erron Carey.

Town manager David Pisha sat, arms crossed staring at the ceiling during the discussion, but was more animated when talk turned to what would be budgeted for the Hearse House in 2015. Pisha said that the Hearse House was to be combined with the $5,000 Academy Building maintenance line, which will be increased by $500.

Two of the trustees asked who decides how much each building would receive.

“Me,” replied Pisha, adding that he needed flexibility to act and that if an exact amount were earmarked for each building, and one had expenses above that amount “that would be tough.”

Pisha said that the Academy Building needs “a massive cash infusion” with “tens of thousands of dollars needed to replace windows” and thousands more for other work including finishing the replacement of its slate roof for $35,000.

The Academy Building is the home of the Chester Historical Society which, according to income and expense lines in Chester’s annual report for 2013, does not pay rent for the building or contribute to what Pisha called “the massive amount needed to fully renovate the Academy.”

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