Income survey gives Chester better borrowing terms for water project

By Shawn Cunningham
© 2015 Telegraph Publishing LLC

In addition to turning down a request from Vietnam Veterans of America to hold a coin drop on Main Street, the Chester Select Board at its Wednesday, Sept. 2 meeting discussed the results of the median household income survey that will make borrowing for the water upgrade project cheaper and the reworking of the corner of Main and Maple with Charlie Record, the owner of the land that would need to be used.

Town Manager David Pisha reported that the income survey, which the town had undertaken, had come back with a median household income of $33,480 for the water district. The MHI is used by the State Drinking Water Fund to calculate the loan terms. The lower the household income of the district, the less expensive the terms. The terms used to date resulted in an interest rate of 3 percent for 24 years. With the new, lower income numbers, the terms drop to – 1.5 percent for 30 years.

“That income survey was great,” said board member Tom Bock. “Incredible.”

“It’s great for the project, but it’s a pretty sad state,” said board member Arne Jonynas, referring to the low income number.

A negative interest rate works like a payment from the lender. According to a loan worksheet provided to the Telegraph, it would reduce the payback on the principal by $803,228.81. In other words, the town would borrow $3.726 million from the fund, but only pay back $2.923 million.

Engineer Naomi Johnson and Town Manager David Pisha. Photos by Shawn Cunningham.

Engineer Naomi Johnson and Town Manager David Pisha. Photos by Shawn Cunningham.

Pisha said that if the project passes on the vote scheduled for Tuesday, Sept. 29, the town would borrow $3.726 million from the fund and $324,000 from the Vermont Bond Bank to cover the portion of the purchase of land that could not be covered by the Drinking Water Fund.

“This is a worst case, there are items that can make it better, but we’re not discussing them tonight,” said Pisha referring to the question of extracting gravel from the 139 acre property that will be used for siting the 330,000 gallon water tank.

“That needs to be discussed,” answered board member Bill Lindsay.

Naomi Johnson, an engineer with Dufresne Group who designed the project, suggested that the board get any unresolved questions answered before the meeting and focus on Phase 1, which includes the tanks and new mains along Route 103 south.

“I feel better going to the voters with this survey,” said board member Heather Chase.

3 feet to fix bad corner

The board took up the offer by the state to work on making the corner of Main and Maple streets more passable especially for turning trucks. Charlie Record, the owner of the house on the corner, would have to sign off on any design that would take subtract land from his house. “Once they take 10 feet, it’s gone,” said Record, who agreed to a 3-foot reduction to round the corner.

Chase asked Johnson, who had made a preliminary design for the corner, if 3 feet would be useful. Johnson said it would.

“Will it fix the problem or just make it better?” asked Chase. “Fix it,” answered Johnson. “And if it’s done as part of the paving, it will be designed by VTrans.”

“I think we need to get going on this,” said Chase.

Board chair John DeBenedetti agreed, asking Pisha to pursue it with VTrans.

Rod and Gun Club tax exemption questioned

Jonynas questioned whether the exemption from property taxes given to the Chester Rod and Gun Club was conditioned on the public having the use of the facility. He said a resident went to the club to sight in a deer rifle, but was not allowed to use the facility. Chester resident Frank Bidwell noted that it used to be open to the public.

Pisha noted that the Masonic Lodge is exempt from property taxes. “Obviously that isn’t open to everyone,” said Pisha. According to town reports, voters at town meetings have given four properties exemption from municipal and education taxes. In addition to the Rod and Gun Club and Masonic Lodge, these include the Gassetts Grange and the Green Mountain Softball League field.

In other action

  • Frank Kelley gets permission to mow behind the Brookside Cemetery.

    Frank Kelley gets permission to mow behind the Brookside Cemetery.

    DeBenedetti said that Saturday Sept. 12 would be hazardous waste drop off day at the Springfield transfer station.

  • The board gave Frank Kelley permission to mow the area behind Brookside Cemetery to get rid of thorny bushes and make it more accessible for people to walk around the site.
  •  Lindsay asked that the town fly an American flag outside Town Hall. Pisha told the board that it’s not as easy as sticking a flag outside. At a public building, the flag needs to be able to be put at half staff and must be taken down at night or lit. Pisha said that the town had explored the idea in the past and it would cost around $1,500 to do it. “Ninety percent of the towns in Vermont fly flags,” said Lindsay, “I don’t see why we don’t.”
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  1. FLY the American Flag in front of our Town Hall!! The cost is minimal compared to what it represents and the cost of all the lives lost, in all of the wars, that gave us the freedom to fly it. The little work required to fly it there should be an honor to the person chosen/volunteering to meet the requirements!