Agreeable Chester voters pass town articles with few questions

Town Manager David Pisha presents the town budget in a PowerPoint display. All photos by Shawn Cunningham

By Shawn Cunningham
©2018 Telegraph Publishing LLC

Nary was heard a discouraging word during Monday evening’s town meeting in Chester, where about 80 voters showed up to Town Hall to voice their approval for every article presented by town government this year. Either voters think the town is on the right track or Town Manager David Pisha’s PowerPoint presentation had its intended effect.

While voters asked a number of questions about specific spending, not a single no vote was heard on any of the 18 voice vote articles or on those presented at the Chester Town School District meeting. (With the Act 46 merger, that pre-school focused body disappears and its functions become part of the new Green Mountain Unified School District board.)

Polls were open today, Tuesday, March 6 for voters to cast Australian ballot on candidates for town and school positions as well as municipal bonds totaling $669,000. The Chester Telegraph will have two stories  tonight after polls close on the outcome of 1. the town bond issues and 2. the Green Mountain Unified School District and the River Valley Technical Center budgets.

The bonds include money to purchase a $110,000 compaction roller for the town’s nearly 100 miles of dirt roads, $115,000 for a sidewalk plow to be used downtown and $11,000 for a Hazmat trailer for the Fire Department. While no one questioned the plow, a few people wondered about the other two items.

State Rep. Tom Bock of Chester gives an overview of happenings in Montpelier.

Road Superintendent Graham Kennedy told the meeting that for contractors, the last step in building a road is compaction. “Only towns fluff up a road and leave it,” making the surface susceptible to erosion from rain and ruts and washboard from people driving too hard on the roads, said Kennedy.  Pisha called compaction a “smooth, hard surface.”

Kennedy added that state agencies have “told us that it’s the biggest thing to stop erosion and keep the roads in place.”

Fire Chief Matt Wilson explained that the Hazmat trailer would serve as portable storage for materials for clean-ups. Currently, those materials are stored on high shelves at the fire station and, in an emergency, fire personnel must return to the station and load them into a utility truck that cannot carry all of them at once. This new truck makes it possible to respond to an emergency more quickly.

Moderator Bill Dakin leads the meeting.

In answer to another question, Wilson said that there are three levels of certification for Hazmat work – Awareness, Operator and Technician. Wilson told the meeting that all but the newest firefighters have achieved the Operator certification and that he hopes that two of those will move up to the Technician level.

The largest bond item, $408,000 for restoration of Town Hall, went unquestioned as did the appropriation of $25,000 to build a pocket park at the end of School Street by the swinging bridge. That project was envisioned by the recently completed Village Center Master Plan.

If voters on Tuesday approve the bond measures, those amounts could be reduced if the town is able to get grants to substitute for borrowing.

Monday night’s voters approved by voice vote capital expenses totaling $447,051 for a new dump truck ($125,000), an excavator lease ($45,500), sidewalk improvements ($35,000), new signage ($20,000), a new police cruiser ($48,000), Town Hall renovations ($15,000), town tree management ($8,000), improvements to Route 35, the Grafton Road ($60,000), emergency equipment, including air paks, a portable water pump and refurbishing the rescue truck ($34,500). Also part of this article were $36,051 as a transfer to the Bond Plan and $20,000 for the payment of library loan. These expenses also could be reduced by grants.

Charitable and social service articles sail through

Among the charitable and social service articles approved Monday were $13,807 for home health, maternal and child health and hospice care provided by the Visiting Nurse Association & Hospice of VT and NH; $3,044  to support Health Care and Rehabilitation Services, which provides outpatient, mental health and substance abuse services; and $3,040 to Southeastern Vermont Community Action to aid in community emergency services.

Chester-Andover Family Center was approved for $3,000.  Other social services that were approved for funding are Meals on Wheels of Springfield at $2,700, $2,250 to the Current for transportation services;  and $1,800 for the Community Cares Network, which serves senior citizens in Chester and Andover.

Senior Solutions, which helps senior citizens to avoid nursing homes, will receive $1,200; the Women’s Freedom Center will get $900; the youth mentoring organization Windsor County Partners will get $800; Neighborhood Connections will get $500 and Green Mountain RSVP, which helps residents over 55 to get into volunteer service, has been approved for $400.

On the townwide fun side, voters also approved $2,500 to support the Chester Fireworks for Labor Day weekend.

On the townwide fun side, voters also approved $2,500 to support the Chester Fireworks for Labor Day weekend. This is the second year that organizers of this 20+ year old event  have come before the town for financial support. Pat Budnick, who has taken on the aerial production since 2005, said she would welcome some help with raising the remainder of the money needed to launch the rockets. They still have to raise about $3,000.

And finally, voters accepted gifts for perpetual care of town cemetery lots from Leona and Wendell Brown ($500), Russel and Jacquelyn Farrar ($250) and Virginia Carol Stowell ($250).

Town ‘left at the altar’ by foundation on Tomasso property

At the end of the meeting, time remained to discuss anything that does not obligate the town to spend money.

Matthew Prescott asked the Select Board about progress on the New England Forestry Foundation’s campaign to buy 1,800 acres of forest and open land in Smokeshire from the Tomasso family to create the Paul Tomasso Memorial Forest.

Board chair Arne Jonynas told the meeting that he is not optimistic and “felt like they left us at the altar.” Jonynas said that NEFF had not had an appraisal done before negotiating the $3.5 million sale price with the family. When they did have an appraisal, they went back to the Tomassos with a lower offer and the deal broke down.

“The town put a lot of time and effort into that,” said Jonynas, “I was disappointed at the way it was handled by NEFF.”

New England Forestry Foundation Executive Director Bob Perschel, came to the town for help in getting the word out on the foundation’s fund raising for the purchase using the price originally negotiated with the Tomasso family but asked town officials to keep the details confidential.

“We were told to keep quiet about it because of legal matters,” said Jonynas. “But it was to cover themselves if it fell through.”

— Cynthia Prairie contributed to this article.

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  1. Henry Dent says:

    It’s too bad Arne spoiled his wedding dress when NEFF left him at the altar.