Chester Select Board talks water project, calls special meeting for Thursday

By Shawn Cunningham
© 2015 Telegraph Publishing, LLC

In a return to the meeting lengths of yore, the Chester Select Board spent 3 1/4 hours on Wednesday, April 1, continuing discussions of the proposed municipal water system upgrade and the status of Class 4 roads. The board also heard a presentation on new shelving that will extend the useful life of the Town Hall vault.

Engineer Naomi Johnson addresses the water system issues. Photos by Shawn Cunningham.

Engineer Naomi Johnson addresses the water system issues. Photos by Shawn Cunningham.

Town manager David Pisha prefaced his water project Power Point presentation by asking the board and public to picture the project without the gravel component, which the board has highlighted for months, claiming that buying the 139-acre O’Neil Sand and Gravel property would save the town $1 million in construction costs.

Pisha told the board that the entire 139 acres would be eligible for the state Drinking Water Fund loan. The cost of the project would remain the same, with the $399,000 for land purchase coming out of $790,000 budgeted for “contingency.”

According to Pisha, using the town-owned site behind Green Mountain Union High School would mean paying more and getting less. Eric Law of the Drinking Water Fund has said that the state can lend based on independently appraised value which could be less than the purchase price. Pisha was asked what the town would do if the appraisal came in lower than the purchase price and there was a gap. “I’ll have to think of something,” said Pisha.

Board member Tom Bock noted that the amount of the savings quoted several weeks ago was $400,000 to $500,000. “I would say you heard it wrong,” said Dufresne engineer Naomi Johnson who said that construction of necessary roads and piping would be $2.5 million for the O’Neil property versus $3.6 million for the town site. Previous discussions of savings to be had by purchasing the O’Neil property have focused only on the reduced cost of water mains that would come from being closer to the water system along Route 103.

Johnson also urged the Select Board to contract for a study to establish the median household income of the water district in the belief that it will be lower than the state’s calculation. A lower household income number will cut the cost of borrowing for the town.

Claudio Veliz asked if the idea of  eminent domain,” in which the town would take some of the property for public use and pay a fair compensation for it, had ever been considered. Pisha said it was not considered and that it would lead to a court case that would delay everything.

“There are so many numbers here, ” said board chair John DeBenedetti. “Tonight, if I was asked to vote on this, I would vote no.”

Asked by Select Board member Heather Chase to add the cost of securing an Act 250 permit to the calculations, Pisha announced that the expenses for Act 250 would be taken from the Cyprus Minerals fund, which is controlled by the Select Board. In the past, former select board member Derek Suursoo had pointed out that the Cyprus Minerals fund was “town wide” money that could not be for the exclusive use of the water users and would have to be repaid.

Chase also asked if anyone from the town has talked with the Green Mountain School Board about this. “I have not,” said Pisha. Chase urged Pisha to speak with the school board.

Gravel was always near the surface of the discussion, and at various times there was speculation on how much gravel is in the ground and how much it would be able to keep water rates down. Board member Arne Jonynas said he felt that if the ratepayers were paying for the property, then all of the benefit from it should go to the water district. Board member Bill Lindsay renewed his oft-stated call for the project to be paid for by all town taxpayers, asserting that the village water system benefits everyone.

The Select Board called for a special meeting for information and discussion of the project to be held on Thursday April 9 at 6:30 p.m. at Town Hall, 556 Elm St.

New document shelving proposed

Ronald Keith, right, speaks about vault shelving as Claudio Veliz listens.

Ronald Keith, right, speaks about vault shelving as Claudio Veliz listens.

Town Clerk Deb Aldrich introduced Ronald Keith – a moveable shelving manufacturer – and they presented a plan to install new shelving units that would make the use of space in the Town Hall more efficient and add as much as 50 years of storage without having to expand.

“Everybody is running out of space,” said Keith, whose company – Dupont Storage Systems – has installed such units in 35 to 40 Vermont towns. Nearby installations include Westminster, Bellows Falls and Springfield.

Keith told the board that he would accept a payment of $7,500 this year and the remainder of the bill in the next budget. The board asked Keith if he could do better on the price. Keith said he would look at the numbers and have an answer they could vote on at the next meeting.

  • The board approved a vendors license for Bill Roberson’s “Silver Bullet” food truck to operate for special events in Chester.
  • The board also approved the Agency of Transportation financial plan
  • Under new business the board asked that the town’s dog ordinance be put on the next meeting’s agenda and voted to name the Springfield Humane Society as the place that stray dogs will be sent rather than the Rockingham Vets which has said it no longer wants this designation.
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  1. Phil Perlah says:

    Town water system does not benefit us and I would oppose paying for it. In other communities, where I have lived, water users paid for the whole system, including capital upgrades.