Chester water rates increase; Coach Road water pipes to be ‘looped’

By Christian Avard
© 2016 Telegraph Publishing LLC

Chester residents and second homeowners will be seeing an increase in water rates with their next bill.

Acting as the town’s Water Commissioners, the Chester Select Board approved a $2 water rate increase at its Aug. 17 meeting. Water users will be charged $46 per equivalent unit instead of the current rate of $44 per equivalent unit. Proposed by Town Manager David Pisha, the increase is one of a series of jumps needed to comply with the terms of a state Drinking Water Fund loan that requires that the average annual water bill be 1 percent of the water district’s median household income or approximately $335. The loan is for water system improvements approved by the voters in September 2015.

The increases will bring the equivalent unit rate to about $60 by the time the loan repayment begins in 2019. Each user is charged for one equivalent unit for every 18,000 gallons (or fraction thereof) taken from the system. The calculation was based on the average household usage as estimated by the State of Vermont. This helps to spread the cost of maintaining the system out among those who are connected, but do not use much water — like second homeowners. In addition to the equivalent unit, users would also be charged $1 per 1,000 gallons of water used.

Pisha assured the Select Board this will be a modest increase for water users.

“It picks up those people that are second homeowners or low usage users. An average residential unit family is not paying an exorbitant amount more,” Pisha said.

The rate increase was approved without fanfare and no residents were on hand to contest it. The new rate went into effect with the current batch of water bills.

Engineer Naomi Johnson explains the Coach Road Loop project and how it could be financed.

Engineer Naomi Johnson explains the Coach Road Loop project and how it could be financed. Photo by Christian Avard.

Coach Road Loop Project survey gets green light

The Select Board gave engineer Naomi Johnson of Dufresne Group the go-ahead to survey the water loop project on Coach Road. The project is a priority for the next – as yet unscheduled phase – of the water system upgrade. The first phase was replacing the main along Route 103 and putting a tank on the former O’Neil Sand and Gravel property behind the high school, which has yet to be done.

Johnson said the loop project replaces old 6-inch lines with new 8-inch pipe and joins the water system again at First Avenue. In an interview on Tuesday, Johnson said that the change will make a loop to eliminate a dead end that results in stagnant water that must be flushed from time to time and will improve fire flow in the area because water can come in two directions rather than just one. The cost of the loop project is approximately $205,000.

Johnson also recommended a previously discussed upgrade to the Jeffrey Well pumping station with the replacement of  a the motor control center and addition of a variable frequency drive in the surge control valve. Hydrant work to the tune of $35,000 will also be included in the expansion of phase one.

According to Johnson, the overall project, which was budgeted for $4.05 million has come in under budget by $511,000 so far. Johnson told the board that it had the option to borrow less or to use the favorable loan terms of negative 1.5 percent to move forward on other parts of the water system that were originally put into a second phase.

The projects would be change orders on existing contracts – the loop will become part of the Route 103 work and the Jeffrey Well pump work will go on the contract for the second water tank. Work could begin in the fall provided that permitting goes according to schedule, Johnson said. The Select Board was eager to get the project started.

“I’ve been hearing about this project for the last nine years. It’s about time we do it. It would help the town’s economic viability as well. Let’s just get this done,” said Select Board chair John DeBendetti.

Saying that the posting of large tracts of land is changing the character of the town, board member Arne Jonynas voted no.

Saying that the posting of large tracts of land is changing the character of the town, board member Arne Jonynas voted no.

Town agrees to discontinue part of Quarry Road

The Select Board agreed to discontinue 800 feet of class III roadway that leads to and is surrounded by the property of Carlo Kapp on Quarry Road. The town has maintained Quarry Road all the way to Kapp’s house and Kapp requested that the last 800 feet be removed from the town road inventory so he could put up a gate on his property.

“People have these long driveways and in winter time don’t maintain them,” cautioned Jeff Holden, a former firefighter, before the vote. “If there’’s a fire, you can’t get to them. Then they try to get back at the town for not coming soon enough.”

Officials were unsure if there were any laws that said the town would be liable if fire and emergency responders could not respond adequately. Holden emphasized that if Kapp acquires the 800 feet of road, he will be responsible for maintaining it.

Although the Select Board approved the finding of facts, one board member was opposed to the idea of granting the 800 feet to Kapp. Arne Jonynas voted against it, citing it would set a bad precedent on local land use.

“I’m seeing this all over town: huge parcels being bought up by landowners with ‘No Trespassing’ signs being put up,” said Jonynas, noting that the lands are often put into the current use program that, he said, is supported by everyone’s taxes but the taxpaying public can’t get access to them.

“I don’t see what we’re getting out of it other than a little savings in maintenance and a little trouble saved from (not) plowing … but there’s less and less open land and it’s changing the character of the town,” said Jonynas.

Members wanted for master planning panel; another new website for the town

During old business, Pisha told the board that the town was moving forward with the Village Center master planning project by selecting the steering committee that will be leading the work. Pisha said that three community members are needed to serve on the committee and that the town was advertising for volunteers those positions. Anyone interested in serving on the steering committee should contact Pisha at Town Hall at 875-2173.

During the discussion, executive assistant Julie Hance said that the town is working with a web-designer and should have a new website ready in early September. On Tuesday, Aug. 23, Pisha told the Telegraph that this would be an entirely new website and that the initial payment for it would be $5,000 from the economic development line of the Planning and Zoning budget.  Hance said that keeping Chester up-to-date on the master planning project would be part of the new site.

Chester resident Mary Jane Miles asked the board to look at a draft child safety ordinance that would place restrictions on where sex offenders could live in town. She also proposed a junk ordinance. The board agreed to look at the proposals at a future meeting.

The Select Board met in executive session to discuss a settlement with the Fish and Wildlife Department relating to the permitting of the new water storage tank and transmission line on the former O’Neil Sand and Gravel site. The executive session was to discuss negotiations with the town’s attorney. No decisions were made upon exiting executive session. The matter will be brought up again at a future meeting.

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