Chase takes seat on Chester board; meetings to be held earlier

By Shawn Cunningham
©2015 The Chester Telegraph

On the day after Town Meeting, the Chester Select Board gathered for its annual reorganization meeting, welcomed a new member, received an updated proposal for investing the Chester Economic Development Fund, appointed town officers and got an update on the proposed town water system among other items. But the news of the night, for a board that notoriously holds three, four and even five-hourlong meetings, was that the meeting was over 70 minutes after it started.

“I can’t go home this early,” joked Arne Jonynas.  “What am I going to do with the rest of the night,” quipped Tom Bock.

Prior to her first meeting on the Chester Select Board, Heather Chase, reviews documents with board member Arne Jonynas. Photos by Shawn Cunningham.

Prior to her first meeting on the Chester Select Board, Heather Chase, reviews documents with board member Arne Jonynas. Photos by Shawn Cunningham.

New board member Heather Chase, who won last Tuesday’s election against incumbent Derek Suursoo by more than 90 votes, was welcomed by town manager David Pisha, who presided over the meeting until the board voted on Bill Lindsay’s nomination of John DeBenedetti as chairman. DeBenedetti also welcomed Chase and thanked outgoing board member Derek Suursoo for nine years of board service noting, “He might return in some capacity – we don’t know.”

Bock was elected vice chairman,  then DeBenedetti asked Chase to take on the role of clerk of the Select Board, which he said went “traditionally” to the newest member of the board. Chase accepted the job.

But in a quick check of recent history of the Select Board clerk, since 2006 there were six years in which the board welcomed new members, and in only two of those did a new member become clerk – DeBenedetti in 2008 and Arne Jonynas in 2011. Chase is the first new member of the Select Board since 2011.

The board agreed to change its start time to 6:30 p.m., from 7; and tasked the town manager to look into a sound system to make it easier for those attending to hearing the proceedings.

As the board turned to setting the time, date and place of its meetings, Chase asked that an earlier time be considered to make it easier for the public to attend. While members thought that 6 p.m. would be too early, there was general agreement that 6:30 would be no problem. Chase also suggested that the board consider occasional Saturday morning meetings – especially during budgeting – to give the public a greater opportunity to participate “and when the board is more awake.”

Referring to long meetings, board member Tom said, “Some of it is our own fault. We beat issues to death. We need to discipline ourselves.”

“It has to do with managing the agenda,” said DeBenedetti pointing to the night’s agenda, “what I was trying to do is keep this to a reasonable length.”

“Some discussions are longer than others,” said DeBenedetti. “I have no objection if you want to set a time limit. When we went to that select board seminar they allowed – for citizens comments – three minutes for everyone who wanted to speak. We don’t limit citizen’s comments and that’s fine, that’s not where the time is spent, most of the time.”

During public comment, Kathy Pellett asked that the board invest in a sound system to make the proceedings more accessible to those attending and to the SAPA TV audience. Pellett also suggested that copies of the agenda be available for those attending.

“We’ve been remiss,” said DeBenedetti, “we’ve talked about the sound system.”

“We’ve talked about it,” said Jonynas, “but we haven’t done anything about it.” Suzy Forlie suggested that someone take on the task of looking into options for a sound system, and DeBenedetti said that Pisha was the one to do it.

Julie and Bob Pollard thanked the board for allowing the use of town land for the Chester Winter Carnival, which they called a great success despite the bitter cold this year. Julie Pollard noted that they had great help from community members and there was more sledding and skating than ever before. Unfortunately, Sunday events had to be canceled due to the cold. Pollard said that they had been leading these efforts for eight years and it was time to pass the torch.

Representatives of Peoples Bank Wealth management return to speak to the Select Board about growing  the Chester  Development Fund.

Representatives of Peoples Bank Wealth management return to speak to the Select Board about growing the Chester Development Fund.

It was noted that most of the events in town are run by people who are 50 and over and that some of the younger people in town need to take a leadership role. Gary King praised the Pollards for their work and noted that many people in town helped in the effort, but that those people want to work, not to lead. King suggested that Recreation director Matt McCarthy step up to a leadership role in the Winter Carnival.

The Pollards said they would be happy to help anyone who wanted to manage the Winter Carnival efforts.

King also noted that the paving of Route 103 along Depot Street was a mixed blessing since fewer potholes invited people to drive faster. He asked that the town put more effort into mitigating speeds, then asked what is being done about the sidewalk enchancement project. King pointed out that kids are walking to and from school on Depot Street and asked that the town look at sidewalk parking in front of the funeral home in the mornings.

Water system upgrades

Pisha said that there has been progress on the water system upgrade and that apparently the state drinking water fund is looking at the tank as fully fundable. At a previous meeting, state drinking water fund administrator Eric Law said that only the drinking water portion of the additional tank could be funded but not the upgrade to the flow for fighting fires.

Law is working on an offer of financing for the project, which he may have by the next meeting. Chester’s median household income is an important component in calculating the interest and incentives the state is willing to give the town.  The lower the MHI, the better the loan terms. The state uses the 2000 census plus an inflation rate of 4 percent per year as the MHI, but the town believes that incomes have not grown that much in 15 years. Law suggested hiring a firm to do an income study as a way to prove the lower number and save a lot on the loan.

Remus Preda, left, and Gary Gibbs of People United Bank Wealth Management fund.

Remus Preda, left, and Gary Gibbs of People United Bank Wealth Management fund.

Growing the development fund

Remus Preda and Gary Gibbs of People’s United Bank Wealth Management division returned with an updated agreement for managing the Chester Economic Development Fund to get a larger return. Board members again questioned how quickly the funds could be released. “I don’t see the word ‘liquid’ anywhere,” said board chair DeBenedetti. Gibbs again explained that the entire fund could be available with a one-day settlement, which he characterized as “as good as cash.”

DeBenedetti also questioned that the agreement required the town to designate persons who are authorized “singly” to withdraw funds from the investments. “What about checks and balances?”asked DeBenedetti. Julie Hance, administrative assistant to the town manager, said that a signed warrant is required and that the town treasurer works this way already. “I forgot about the warrant,” said DeBenedetti.

“Warrants are for money from the general fund,” said Lindsay. “This is not general fund money.”

“You sign warrants for any fund,” said Hance.  “The grant fund, the general fund … the economic development fund. The treasurer can’t issue a check without a warrant.”

“I just don’t like the word single,” said Lindsay. “If the board wants to designate the town manager to act then that’s fine.”

Volunteer appointments

Finally, the Select Board made appointments to a number of volunteer positions. They include: Secretary to the Select Board – Julie Hance; Cemetery Sexton – Jeff Sheldon; Senior Solutions (Council on Aging) – Linda Stowell; Fence Viewers – Frank Balch, J. Leon Spaulding,Tony Weinberger; First Constable – Jeff Holden; Regional Planning Representative – Tom Bock; Solid Waste District – Derek Suursoo; Weigher of Coal – Tony Weinberger; Inspector of Lumber, Shingles and Wood – Tony Weinberger; Green-Up Day Chair – Frank Kelley; Tree Warden – Joseph Epler; Health Officer – Leslie Thorsen; and Transportation Advisory Committee – Arne Jonynas. Vacancies remain on the Connecticut River Transit Authority and as an alternate representative on the Regional Planning Commission. Anyone interested in serving in those capacities should contact Town Hall, 875-2173.

DeBenedetti announced that there are three candidates for two planning commission posts, and the board will be interviewing the candidates at the next meeting. DeBenedetti asked Hance if under the new open meeting laws these should be done in executive session. Hance said she would have to look that up, while Jonynas asked if the executive sessions should be up to the candidates.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Filed Under: ChesterFeaturedLatest News

About the Author:

RSSComments (0)

Trackback URL

Comments are closed.