‘Damp patch’ snags Chester emergency services building study

By Shawn Cunningham
© 2017 Telegraph Publishing LLC

A view of a portion of the ‘damp patch’ from the town’s sand pile. Photos by Shawn Cunningham

The state of Vermont has thrown a small wrench into Chester’s feasibility study on constructing new town buildings on the Town Garage site.

Last Wednesday, Chester architect Claudio Veliz, updating the Chester Select Board on the study that his firm is conducting on the buildings to house the public safety and the public works departments, said that the state has recently begun looking at an area on the west side of that site as a wetland.

That land, Veliz’s colleague Robert Buchan told the board, had not been designated a wetland as of  late September, but it is now listed as “being investigated” to see if the swampy area between the Town Garage and the properties on Depot Street should be.  The state probe was probably triggered by the project review generated by development in Vermont.

Architect Robert Buchan explains how an area that was not designated as a wetland is now being looked at by the state

Veliz said that this could be a small problem or a more significant one and suggested hiring a consultant to look at the situation and make recommendations to the state.

“It could turn out to be a damp patch or a 3rd class wetland,” said Buchan. If it is a 1st or 2nd class wetland, a required buffer zone could make the site more compact and less workable. Buchan also theorized that it is not a natural wetland, but the result of runoff from Depot Street, which is uphill from the site.

Board member Dan Cote told Veliz that he’s frustrated with the process and thought that Veliz should have solved the problem at his own expense before coming to the board.

Claudio Veliz updates the board on the progress of the feasibilty study

But board member Lee Gustafson, a hydrologist by training, countered, saying that he had experience with the state in such cases and recommended getting ahead of the situation. “Will our investigation influence the state? Absolutely yes,” said Gustafson. “Our own consultant makes perfect sense to me.”

“I’d rather it be a thorough job,” said board member Heather Chase, responding to questions of how this would affect the schedule for delivering the final feasibility report, “I’d rather wait and do it correctly since we’re talking about a building meant to last 50 to 75 years.”

Veliz told the board that the feasibility study is not meant to design the project, but rather to establish a menu of recommendations and to find the possible problems involved with the project before the design and construction phases, when they can become more expensive.

Looking at more than two dozen possible arrangements, Veliz said they had winnowed it down to three or four economical choices that would involve using the existing Depot Street site.

Recreation and weatherization

Recreation director Matt McCarthy gave the board an overview of the operation of his department, noting the progress that’s been made at the Pinnacle recreation area including the new deck, liner and pumps at the swimming pool. McCarthy also said the department had received a $10,275 grant that will allow the department to add another nine holes to the disc golf course and renovate the ski shack at the top of the hill. The total cost of the project, according to Hance, is $20,500, so the remaining will come from town coffers.

Asked what he’d like to do next, McCarthy said he’d add another light to the skating rink as well as light the tennis courts. In response to Gustafson asking what he would do if he could have anything he wanted, McCarthy replied, “an indoor recreation center.”

Chase suggested exploring ways to team up with the Edgar May Center in Springfield.

Cote asked McCarthy to look into more recreation options for the elderly as well as children.

Sarah Brock of Vital Communities explained her organization’s program to help people weatherize their homes. Brock told the board that a program has been set up in Springfield and she thought that she would reach out to see if Chester would want to participate. Brock said the program would feature free energy audits and projects could qualify for assistance. A volunteer or volunteers would be needed to contact residents to let them know about the program.

Chase suggested advertising for volunteers while Town Manager David Pisha said a notice could be put on the town website and it could be brought up when the town’s committees have their monthly meeting. Brock said she would need to know if there are volunteers in the next month and the project would begin in January.

In other business

Gustafson asked the board to look into the business climate in Chester, noting that he had heard from someone who said town officials were setting up roadblocks for businesses. Gustafson said that the person had told him that, after he had discussed a project with town officials, someone from the town had alerted the state and after that, the state was asking questions about the project. Town Executive Assistant Julie Hance said that the legal process for development includes filing a project review sheet, which identifies what state permits would be needed.

  • Seeley Morton asked the board to consider some sort of map on a podium at the recreation area to identify the trees that were planted there in memory of a number of Chester residents. The sod keeps encroaching on the ground level markers.
  • Chester resident Frank Bidwell complained about the lack of response by town officials when he has requested information. Hance said that for some requests, she doesn’t have the time in her day to copy large files. Gustafson asked if a reasonable time frame be established for requests.
  • Bidwell also asked if there would be an accounting for the items removed from the Yosemite Fire House  by the Chester Historical Society and sold back in October 2015. Bidwell noted that almost all of the property in the building belonged to the town and asked if the town would recoup the money from the society.



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  1. Doris Eddy says:

    Having grown up in Chester Depot I can attest to the whole area being wet. All the houses south of the railroad tracks either had drains or sump pumps in their basements. So, am I surprised there are potential damp areas by the town garage? That area was a lumber mill for years.