Chester bond issues seek funds for equipment, roads

By Shawn Cunningham
© 2017 Telegraph Publishing LLC

There are three general obligation bonds on this year’s Town Meeting Day ballot in Chester. If passed, these will fund public works and buy various pieces of capital equipment. To borrow using a bond, the items being purchased must have a usable life that is longer than the repayment schedule. The vote will be held at Town Hall on Tuesday, March 7. Here’s a summary of what is being proposed.

The temporary bridge spanning a failing culvert on Popple Dungeon Road

The first bond is for highway work including replacement of a large culvert that is failing. The culvert, just west of Zezza Road on Popple Dungeon, survived Tropical Storm Irene although it was blocked with debris, shooting the South Branch of the Williams River around it and taking out the road.

It was recently topped by a temporary bridge rented from the State of Vermont. The culvert replacement will cost the town $135,000, with the state kicking in the rest of the  $400,000 under a state grant, which the town has applied for. According to Executive Assistant Julie Hance, Irene damaged the culvert, but not enough for it to be paid for out of those funds.

A portion of Route 35 that will be removed and get an under-drain and a stone retaining wall before being replaced.

Another $100,000 would be the town’s portion of work on Route 35 (Grafton Road) under an Agency of Transportation grant. That would involve tearing out the road where the jersey barriers are along the river and installing a new “under drain” to keep water from undermining the roadway. Then the road would be replaced and a stack-stone retaining wall along the river would be built in that area. The total cost for the project is estimated at $235,000. This would be the first part of a larger stabilization of that road.

Replacement for water pumper

The second bond is for $500,000 to replace the town’s 1997 pumper, which is nearing the end of its service life and has a number of problems including systemwide electrical faults that cause the headlights to alternate between bright and dim while it’s being driven to a fire as well as surges that melt light sockets.

A schematic drawing of the proposed new pumper.

“Of the eight lights on the light bar, only one works,” Fire Chief Matt Wilson says, adding that that mechanics have tried to repair these and other problems with little success. At the same time, he said, standards for fire equipment are evolving and becoming more stringent.

According to Wilson, being in line with the standards of the National Fire Protection Association lowers the cost of insuring the department and potentially lessens the liability should something go wrong.

Wilson said the committee that worked on designing the truck emphasized firefighter safety. That meant including things like a ladder hoist so firefighters would not have to pull heavy ladders off the the side of the truck as they stand below.

Two features that Wilson is especially enthusiastic about are the crew cab, which can send six firefighters (fully dressed in their breathing apparatus) straight to a fire without personal vehicles, which can make a fire scene more difficult and dangerous, and the heavy duty chassis that (unlike the town’s other trucks) give those in the truck a better chance of surviving a crash.

Wilson says that when a fire truck built on a conventional frame crashes, the 1,000+ gallon water tank weighing more than 8,000 pounds can move forward, crushing the crew compartment. The heavy duty chassis of the proposed pumper is designed to keep that tank from moving.

“We looked for a good truck, but not the top of the line,” said Wilson. “It’s not a Cadillac, but it’s not a Yugo.” He acknowledged that the price tag is high but noted that other town equipment gets replaced on a fairly short schedule while fire trucks run for 20 years or more. The dealer is a St. Albans, Vt., company, meaning that service on the truck can be done by their technicians at the Chester fire station rather than adding the expense of sending the truck away.

Wilson will be at Town Meeting on Monday evening, March 6, to answer any questions voters have ahead of Tuesday’s Australian ballot.

Handicap ramp and a mower/blower

The handicap ramp behind town hall would be rebuilt if Article 2 passes on Tuesday.

The third bond up for approval covers equipment and construction and is “not to exceed $185,000.” That figure includes replacing aging pumps with more efficient ones at the town pool for $25,000 and replacing the handicap entrance at the back of Town Hall.

The handicap entrance figure of $50,000 should come in  cheaper, but the work is not just the cost of a railing, which is made of wood and is rotting, but the reconstruction of the rear entrance including concrete that has been eroded by winter salt.

Tiger roadside mower.  Photo courtesy of Tiger Corporation.

The largest item on the third bond — at $110,000 — is a tractor with a roadside mower and a power take off blower. According to Road foreman Graham Kennedy, this would help with requirements of Act 64, the state’s new clean water law.

In an effort to reduce soil runoff and roadside erosion, Act 64 mandates lining ditches with stone. This poses a problem in cleaning the ditches since using a grader – the old method – would tear up all the stone which would then need to be replaced each year. Instead, the idea is to use the blower to clear the ditches of leaves and other debris.

In addition, the tractor with a boom mower would help with the the problem of mowing the sides of the town’s 90+ miles of roadway.

“The budget is never enough to do the entire town even once,” said Kennedy, but having the mower will give the road crew the flexibility to do mowing as the schedule allows – “especially the bad parts” – instead of getting onto the schedule for a contractor.

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