Chester board begins budgeting, talks 911 addresses, Coleman plaque

By Shawn Cunningham
©2017 Telegraph Publishing LLC

The Chester Select Board opened the 2018 budgeting season last Wednesday night with a review of a draft general fund budget  and some confusion ensued.

Board chair Arne Jonynas follows the budget discussion on one of the new tablets issued to members to cut down on photocopying. Photos by Shawn Cunningham

This is the first budget since the town upgraded its accounting software from QuickBooks to programs developed for municipalities by the New England Municipal Resource Center   and changed from accounting on a cash basis to accrual.  That means that for many revenue and expense items it can be difficult to see direct comparisons between what was budgeted and spent last year and what is being proposed this year.

One example of this is health insurance, which in the past was budgeted for in total across all departments. Now that item is broken down in each department’s budget. Town Manager David Pisha explained that the process might be a bit bumpy because of this, but that when budgeting rolls around next year, direct comparisons will be available once again.

Pisha also recommended switching from Blue Cross Blue Shield to MVP for a savings of about $37,000. The town has changed plans every year since Pisha took the town manager post in search of the best deal.

The budgeting process will continue through the first few weeks of January. Former select board member Derek Suursoo asked that copies of the budget being discussed by the board be made available to those attending the meeting.

Address signs for emergencies

Fire chief Matt Wilson explains the difficulty of finding addresses of buildings without number signs

Fire chief Matt Wilson told the board that he believes that the town needs an ordinance mandating reflective 911 address signs so first responders can find the location of an emergency.

“When minutes count, finding an address is often a process of elimination,” said Wilson, noting that house numbers are often not reflective or are placed on the building far off the road, which leads emergency personnel to search for the home or business where the call for help originated.

Wilson said that this has been an ongoing problem, but in traveling for his job, he has noticed that several towns have rapidly rolled out such signage and suggested this may have been done by ordinance. Wilson suggested that the town purchase the 6-inch by 18-inch vertical signs and brackets for mail boxes or posts on which to affix the signs and estimated a total cost of about $28,000 for the signs and hardware.

Board chair Arne Jonynas wondered if there is a way to educate people to do this themselves rather than having the town take it on and pay for it. Board member Dan Cote said he thought Wilson had provided a series of options that the board could discuss.

In other public safety issues, Police Chief Rick Cloud told the board that he’s gotten a lot of positive feedback on the new radar speed signs and he has noted

“We looked for something kind of polite,” said Cloud regarding the signs that flash a vehicle’s speed with the words Slow Down until the car reaches the speed limit, when its driver gets a message saying Thank You.

Police chief Rick Cloud reports on his department while Dutch relaxes

Board member Lee Gustafson told Cloud that those are the  “best speed signs I’ve ever seen.”

Cloud also said that his dog Dutch had finished patrol school and is now certified for patrol and narcotics. Patrol training includes officer protection, apprehension, building searches, area searches for missing persons and scouting for people who don’t want to be found like escaped prisoners and armed subjects.

Cloud, who personally bought Dutch as a puppy, told the board that because he is a K9 instructor, training was done without cost to the town. According to Cloud, a fully trained police dog can cost as much as $50,000.

The only outlay for the town has been for was $1,500 from the forfeiture fund to install a system that protects the dog from overheating if a police cruiser stalls while the officer is away from it. When the temperature inside the car becomes too high, the Hot Dog system automatically rolls down the windows, turns on a fan, honks the horn and flashes the cruiser’s lights.

Plaque to honoring Jack Coleman

Overture to Christmas committee member tells the board about the plaque honoring Jack Coleman that his group envisions.

Chris Meyer and Pat Budnick asked the board for permission to place a commemorative plaque honoring Jack Coleman on the gazebo on the green. Coleman – who died in September 2016 – moved to Chester in 1985 after a career as an economist, college president, Federal Reserve bank president and author and bought the Fullerton Inn.

He was an energetic and tireless promoter of Chester and the originator of the town’s annual Overture to Christmas event. According to Meyer, the current Overture committee thought it would be fitting to remember Coleman in front of the inn he operated and on the Green that was central to his Christmas celebrations. He added that it will not cost the town any money.

The board voted to allow the placement of the plaque.

In other business

As part of the emergency services building feasibility study, a consulting firm has begun looking at the area near the town garage to determine whether it is a wetland or not. Pisha told the board that the cost would be around $1,000 but that the work has only just begun and there were no results at the time of the meeting.

  • There did not seem to be any interest in the joint Windsor/Chester assessor position, but the town has begun advertising the job as a part time position and there seems to be greater interest.
  • Executive Assistant Julie Hance told the board that town staff is looking into a way be able to do a town-wide alert by phone, but in meantime they can work with VTAlert.  The issue of alerts arose when the Water Department issued a “boil water order” and several residents complained that they had not been notified.
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  1. Larry Semones says:

    I moved here from Pennsylvania. The local volunteer fire departments there sold reflective house number signs as a fund raiser. Seemed to work well. Most homes had a reflective number and fire department made a few bucks.