Chester board nixes Vietnam vets’ coin-drop

By Shawn Cunningham
©2015 Telegraph Publishing LLC

On a 3 to 1 vote, the Chester Select Board last night turned down a request from Vietnam veterans to hold a coin-drop fundraiser in front of Zachary’s Pizza House on Friday, Sept. 18.

The request, from Chapter 723 of Vietnam Veterans of America, came before town officials after it was rejected by VTrans, which said that state guidelines prohibit such activities in areas where the speed limit is greater than 35 mph. The veterans organization had asked VTrans for permission to hold the drop on Route 103 South near Green Mountain Union High School.

Ron Farrar (foreground) and Larry Semones bring their request for a coin drop to benefit veterans with PTSD back to the select board for  a third meeting

Ron Farrar, foreground, and Larry Semones bring their request for a coin-drop to benefit veterans with PTSD back to the Select Board for a third meeting last night. Photo by Shawn Cunningham

The veterans, who use the average $3,000 that comes from each coin-drop to support programs for vets who suffer from post traumatic stress disorder, first brought their problem to the Select Board on Aug. 5. At that meeting, the board told VVA member Ron Farrar that 10 years earlier in response to complaints, the Select Board had outlawed coin drops within the “village,” but that they wanted to look at the minutes of that meeting and asked Farrar to return for the next scheduled meeting.

At the Aug. 19 meeting, board chairman John DeBenedetti suggested that the town ask the state to lower the speed limit to 35 mph near the high school. The board also asked the vets to go back to the state to see if there was any room for the event to go ahead as planned, then return for the next select board meeting.

Last night, Farrar told the board that the event could not go forward on Route 103 South. “Once we go to a place where it’s 40 mph, we lose our insurance,” said Farrar. Members of the board noted that a change in the speed limit was not a solution, at least in the short term since such a change would take a significant amount of time.

Board member Tom Bock told Farrar and chapter President Larry Semones that he had received a number of phone calls about the issue, “most of them negative.” Farrar told Bock that his group had never had a complaint, “because it’s for veterans.”

Board member Bill Lindsay moved to allow the coin-drop saying, “I understand the complaints about delays, but that doesn’t mean a lot to me. If there are a lot of complaints we need to look at it, but I don’t see anybody filling up the chairs with complaints.”

Questioning Lindsay’s motion, board member Arne Jonynas asked how the board would handle future requests from other groups. “What would be a reason not to do this for other organizations?” asked Jonynas

DeBenedetti suggested that another option would be to contact the Chester Rotary or Chester Historical Society to get space on the Green for the two day Fall Festival. While DeBenedetti noted that there was one more meeting in which to consider the request, Lindsay called the motion. Lindsay voted yes while Bock, Chase and Jonynas voted no. DeBenedetti routinely does not vote unless there is a tie.

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