Chester board briefed on garage replacement Emergency services building, tree-lined streets discussed

By Shawn Cunningham
© 2018 Telegraph Publishing LLC

At its regular meeting on Wednesday, March 21, the Chester Select Board considered updates on two projects: a feasibility study for the replacement of the Town Garage with a new garage and an emergency services building and a canopy management plan to “re-establish Chester’s tree-lined streets.”

Chester architect Claudio Veliz answers the board’s questions the EMS/Town Garage feasibility study. Photos courtesy of SAPA-TV unless otherwise noted

Architects Claudio Veliz and Robert Buchan answered questions from the board and public on the feasibility study. The current Town Garage, on Depot Street, has a number of issues, not the least of which is a large number of code violations. The question at hand was what could be done to provide workable space for the town’s fire, ambulance and highway departments using land already owned by the town.

Looking at several sites including the Pleasant Street land that has been envisioned as a home for an EMS building, Veliz concluded that the work to make that site usable was very expensive and that if laid out well, there is sufficient space on the current garage site for two buildings along with other functions like sand and gravel piles.

Board chair Arne Jonynas asks about operating the fire, ambulance and highway departments while under construction

Most questions asked by the board revolved around nuts and bolts issues of construction and timing that would normally be addressed in subsequent phases of the work. Nevertheless, Veliz and Buchan explained that the two buildings could be constructed while the existing garage was being used by the three departments and that the work could be completed in “two construction seasons, at most.”

“Vermont contractors are pretty good at this,” said Veliz. “If they start in the spring and get the buildings under cover, they can finish through the winter.”

Veliz said that keeping the departments working while the area is under construction would be the responsibility of the construction management company that does the work.

The Chester town garage as seen from the top of the sand pile. A portion of the wetland area is to the left. Photo by Shawn Cunningham

Highway Superintendent Graham Kennedy said that the need to have a 50-foot buffer from wetlands discovered on the south side of the site results in a loss of usable land, but Veliz noted that the only things the town could not do in the buffer area is construct a building or put down an impermeable surface. Buchan told the board that paving that is considered permeable is more expensive but can be done.

Board chair Arne Jonynas asked if the town could look at another fire station in another town and just copy it. Veliz said that whichever design team the town hires would look at “analogs.” However, Buchan said, “a fire station that’s 10 years old may be obsolete” when it comes to mitigating carcinogens that firefighters bring back from a fire.

After the session with Veliz and Buchan, the board appointed a building committee for the EMS and Town Garage construction. It consists of Lee Gustafson representing the Select Board, Fire Chief Matt Wilson, Ambulance Coordinator Dan Cook, Graham Kennedy and Town Manager David Pisha.

The EMS/Town Garage feasibility study is a large document and is available in sections on the home page of the town website.

Canopy Management Plan

Landscape architect Scott Wunderle introduced the Chester Village Canopy Management Plan  that he and several community members have been working on. Funded by the state Department of Forests, Parks and Recreation, the plan comprises suggested planting, maintenance and removal of trees on Main Street between Green Mountain High and the former Baba A Louis bakery and from the triangle at Depot Street out to the Stone Village Farmer’s Market. The goal, according to Wunderle, is to reestablish Chester’s tree lined streets.

Landscape architect Scott Wunderle unveils a canopy management plan aimed at re-establishing ‘tree lined streets.’

To develop the plan, Wunderle and others walked the streets taking into account historical references and the way trees are reacting to climate change and pests. They looked at existing trees, assessed their conditions and put together a maintenance and planting plan. Wherever possible, they selected native plants but street-side conditions can be difficult on native species that would do fine away from the street.

The plan took shade and beauty into account in selecting trees and locations and even decided not to recommend trees for certain areas where they would block the view of historic structures. Wunderle gave the field next to the Yosemite Fire House as an example.

Wunderle told the board that landowners would not find that any trees would be cut or planted without consulting them first and that the implementation of the plan would be a multi-year project.

The recommendations of trees to be cut, maintained or planted were made visual in a series of aerial photos with notations. Wunderle also said that QR codes that can be read by smartphones could be placed at each tree to explain what species it was and how it is maintained.

Graham Kennedy cautioned Wunderle on the effects that roots could have on sidewalks and asked about how the planting could be coordinated to avoid conflicting with water and sewer lines. Wunderle said he would look into that.

In other action

The board signed the amendment that extends the contract for AT&T to use the town’s radio tower at the Pinnacle. The board also signed the “preferred site” letter for the solar farm that is proposed for the Eddy Farm off Andover Road.

Chester town attorney Jim Carroll explains legal issues for the select board at an earlier meeting Photo by Shawn Cunningham

Having interviewed the candidates at the previous meeting, the board made three-year appointments of Naomi Johnson to the Planning Commission and Carla Westine and Gary Coger to the Development Review Board.

Finally, noting that the town spends $12,900 each year on legal notices and other advertising, the board switched its designated paper of record to the Vermont Journal at $11 per column inch. The previous paper of record – The Message for the Week – bid $9.50, but it has such strict and early deadlines that it can be difficult to get an ad placed. in a timely manner according to Executive Assistant Julie Hance.

After being postponed by two successive nor’easters, the visit by town attorney Jim Carroll is scheduled for the April 4 meeting. Carroll is coming to discuss a junk yard ordinance, formation of a budget committee, the Yosemite Fire House and the evaluation and supervision of the zoning administrator. Jonynas joked that Kennedy should prepare for another storm.


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