Chester board talks new fire station, cemetery expansion

By Shawn Cunningham
©2017 Telegraph Publishing LLC

The Chester Select Board discussed plans for expansion of the Brookside Cemetery and a new emergency services building at its meeting last Wednesday – but one member appeared frustrated that topics brought up more than two years ago were still being “kicked down the road.”

After hearing presentations on the cemetery and building proposal, the board asked the presenters to return at the next meeting. But as that meeting’s agenda grew, board member Heather Chase expressed her disappointment that there would, again, be no time to look at personnel policies.

“I’ve asked, I don’t know how many times, to look at personnel policies and we kick it down the road,” said Chase. “Now we have 12 things on the next agenda that are lengthy.”

In the past, Chase has asked the board to look at conflict of interest and purchasing policies, especially bidding. Currently the town had no requirement that projects be put out to bid. Unless there’s a requirement in the funding, bidding is done at the discretion of the town manager.

Board chair Arne Jonynas responded to Chase’s comment saying, “We’ll have a full agenda for the next meeting.”

Planning for a new fire station

Claudio Veliz outlines the steps in designing a new emergency services building while Barre Pinske, standing, waits to comment. Photos by Shawn Cunningham

Chester architect Claudio Veliz gave the presentation on a process for studying and designing an emergency services building. After Veliz outlined an approach to the work, Jonynas said it was a really big decision and that the board was not knowledgeable in the location, cost or size of the project.

“How do you find out what you need?” asked Jonynas.

Pisha said Veliz could come up with the price for a feasibility study. And Veliz said that would identify what is needed, what are the options and which is the optimal site.

“The feasibility study looks at the entire universe of possibilities,” said board member Lee Gustafson, “the cheap option, the Cadillac option and everything in between. … One building or two or three and is it a 50-year building or a 100-year building,” Gustafson continued, “identify what we need.”

“We just need a fire building,” said Jonynas.

From the audience, former board member Derek Suursoo asked Veliz if it would be a contract or pro bono. When Veliz said it would be a contract, Suursoo asked why it was not put out as a request for proposals.

Pisha said that it would be cheaper and quicker for Veliz to do the feasibility study than to spend the time writing an RFP and vetting the proposals.

“It’s best to get the project started,” Pisha said.

Executive assistant Julie Hance said the town often bids construction projects, but has never bid feasibility studies. “And we’ve done a bunch of feasibility studies,” said Hance.

Fire department officer Ben Whalen calls the feasibility study ‘extremely important.’

Board member Ben Whalen, who, as assistant fire chief, recused himself from the board during the discussion, looked back on the designs that failed at the ballot box in past years. “They skipped Cadillac and went straight to Bugatti,” said Whalen noting that the feasibility study was “extremely important.”

“It will open people’s eyes to what’s there,” said Whalen. “Ten years ago we said ’hey this building is bad.’ Now it’s 10 years later.”

Jonynas asked if the proposal would cost the town money. Veliz said it would not.

At one point, Chester resident Barre Pinske said he would like to be on a steering committee to work on it.

Whalen said he didn’t see a steering committee needed for the feasibility study and in his mind the steering committee for the project should be the department heads and the public.

Veliz was asked to return for the June 7 meeting with a proposed cost for the feasibility study.

Cemetery extension – beauty or capacity?

Surveyor Deb Daniels discusses the options for expansion of the Brookside Cemetery

Deb Daniels, who has been planning the Brookside Cemetery expansion for several years,  returned to say that a number of state regulations regarding river corridors and legal questions have slowed her progress but that she was ready to go forward with a first phase that would include a plan that would yield 109 burial places, a columbarium and a memorial garden. A columbarium is a structure featuring niches for cremation urns.

This led to a discussion whether a cemetery should be designed as a beautiful place for quiet contemplation or designed for the maximum number of grave sites. Cemetery Sexton Jeff Sheldon reported that there are eight to 10 lots available at Brookside and at least 60 total throughout all the town’s cemeteries.

Board member Dan Cote said he thought that the town should maintain the character of the old portion of Brookside and try to make the new part beautiful. Pisha agreed, saying that design is more important than capacity. Daniels was asked to continue working on the plan and return for the June 7 meeting.

In other business

Chester Economic Development Committee member Steve Davis asked the board to take $1,200 from the town’s $300,000 revolving loan fund to help pay for someone to open and close the information booth and Hearse House on The Green this summer.

Steve Davis of the CEDC outlines how the information booth on The Green will operate this summer.

According to Davis, businesses were recruited to do the job as volunteers, but it didn’t always work. “Nancy Rugg (co-owner of the Fullerton Inn) became the default and it wasn’t fair to ask her to take it again.”

Before passing the proposal, board members discussed using the fund, which is earmarked for economic development, for “a non-traditional purpose,” but it was pointed out that striping parking spaces on The Green last year came out of the fund. Four years ago, the board used $10,000 from the fund to pay for an ill-fated town website project. The fund is now invested by People’s Bank Wealth Management and has increased in value by $13,000 since the first of this year.

Pisha told the board that the Vermont River Conservancy wanted to know if the town was still interested in accepting the land above the “rainbow rock” swimming hole on the Williams River. The Vermont Housing and Conservation Board is considering making a grant to the River Conservancy to help with the purchase. The conservancy would then turn the property over to the town, for easy access to the river.

And finally, Pisha noted that the quit claim deed for the last person claiming an interest in the Yosemite Engine House was out to be signed and that when that was done, the town would advertise for anyone else who might have an interest before they could get clear title.

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