Select board hears of fund-raising event for Chester kids; again questions Academy Building lease

Townsend Gilbert asks for use of the Green for a fund-raising event for children called Red Nose Day. Photos by Shawn Cunningham.

Townsend Gilbert asks the Select Board for use of The Green for a fund-raising event for local children called Red Nose Day. Photos by Shawn Cunningham.

By Shawn Cunningham
© 2016 Telegraph Publishing LLC

The agenda for last Wednesday’s Chester Select Board meeting looked mostly like routine housekeeping: grant applications to sign, a couple of liquor licenses to renew, the annual update of the local emergency plan and a review of new cemetery policies. But the meeting was anything but routine.

Wearing a large red clown nose, Chester resident Townsend Gilbert asked the board for the use of the area around The Green for a Red Nose Day walkathon from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Thursday, May 26. Started in the United Kingdom 25 years ago,  Red Nose Day is an international day for raising money for kids in need. Pointing to his wife Carol, who serves as a Guardian Ad Litem for 35 children under the age of 18, Gilbert told the board that due to poverty or a dysfunctional family, many children have unmet needs. The walk is intended to raise money for such kids in Chester and the funds raised would stay in the community.

Board members were generally receptive to the idea, although several expressed concerns about the safety of people walking along the road and asked Gilbert to talk with Police Chief Rick Cloud and come back for the April 20 meeting.

Lease on Academy Building questioned

The board also discussed whether the Chester Historical Society  was holding up its end of the lease of the Academy Building, which it has been renting from the town for $1 a year.

The Chester Select Board discusses the use of the Academy Building.

The Chester Select Board discusses the use of the Academy Building.

The question arose at its March 16 meeting, when the Chester Music Series requested to hold its July 28 concert in front of the Brookside Cemetery instead of the Academy Building lawn because the Chester Historical Society was holding a meeting inside the building that night and did not want the music event to interfere.

At the March 16 meeting several  Select Board members had expressed disappointment that the historical society could not work out something for the night of that concert.

“I don’t feel happy about being held to the whims of an individual for the use of town property.”

Dan Cote
Chester Select Board

Then, at the most recent meeting, Heather Chase and Dan Cote, suggested that the lease agreement be reviewed to see if the organization had held up its end of the bargain. Board chair John DeBenedetti said that the lease expires in 2020 and that the board should look at it then.

Board member Arne Jonynas pointed to a requirement in the lease that the historical society maintain the building. Chase noted that at the previous Select Board meeting, historical society President Ron Patch told the board that the roof was leaking and that he had emptied a 5-gallon bucket on the second floor several times.

Town Manager David Pisha said that maintenance is not an exact term. “It can mean you sweep the floors or fix the roof,” said Pisha.

“The answer today is to review the lease and see where we go from here,” said Cote. “I don’t feel happy about being held to the whims of an individual for the use of town property.” Chase asked that the board review the lease at the first meeting in May.

Board procedures, water projects and a retirement

Chester resident Frank Bidwell used public comment time to bring up a few items that he wanted the board to consider. Bidwell noted that there were 12 items under “old business” at the last meeting and only one was discussed. He suggested that each item on the list should at least be acknowledged in the meeting. He also noted that several had been on the list for a long time with no action taken.

Resident Frank Bidwell ask board about agenda items.

Resident Frank Bidwell ask board about agenda items.

Bidwell also told the board that he felt the town needed to craft a vision statement that would describe the goals of the town.

Cote took that opportunity to compliment Pisha on the description of the planning process for the village center that he gave at that morning’s Chester Economic Development Committee meeting. Pisha outlined the $70,000 grant-funded project, saying that it will be an opportunity for people to get involved in steering the course for Chester into the future.

Act 250 work under way

Pisha said that work is under way to secure the Act 250 permit needed to  build the new water tank on the hill behind Drew’s All Natural.  In the meantime, the bids were opened last week for the main water line along Route 103 from the Sunoco Station to the high school.  He said that SUR Construction put in the low bid (just under the estimate) and that Dufresne Group (the project engineers) is reviewing them.

The board also discussed and signed an application for financing from the state Clean Water Fund for preliminary engineering to correct drainage problems in the Mountain View and Kevadus Circle neighborhoods. The financing mechanism is similar to that used for the water project, with the loan for the engineering to begin being paid back five years after completion. If construction on the project begins before then, the engineering costs can be rolled up into the construction loan.

In answer to an old business question, Free Range Restaurant owner Rick Paterno said that the CEDC and the Okemo Chamber of Commerce had reached an agreement that would reopen the toilet in the information booth for the summer season. Everyone was relieved to hear there was movement on the issue.

DeBenedetti also took a moment to recognize the work of wastewater plant operator Barry Goodrich, who is retiring after nearly 20 years with the Town of Chester.

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