Chester board picks Dungeon bridge alternative Begins consideration of salvage yard ordinance

By Shawn Cunningham
© 2018 Telegraph Publishing, LLC

The temporary bridge spanning a failing culvert on Popple Dungeon Road Photos by Shawn Cunningham

The Chester Select Board considered its options for replacing a failing culvert on Popple Dungeon Road and rejected the recommended alternative last Wednesday evening.

The engineering firm VHB presented four alternatives for the project but recommended the one that would have closed Popple Dungeon from just west of Zezza Road for 21 to 24 days in the summer of 2019.

The four alternatives were :

A. Do nothing and continue to use the temporary bridge rented from the state of Vermont
B. Construct a structural plate arch culvert with onsite temporary bridge, with a 50-year lifespan.
C. Construct a cast-in-place concrete bridge with onsite temporary bridge, with a lifespan of 75 to 100 years.
D. Construct a precast concrete slab bridge with no temporary bridge, with a 75 to 100 year lifespan

VHB’s Jason Keener presents the alternatives for replacing a failing culvert on Popple Dungeon Road.

Alternatives A and B were quickly set aside as inferior choices. Of the two remaining alternative, C was the more expensive at $700,000 while D is estimated to cost $692,00.  Construction of D would be accelerated with crews working round the clock to complete the job in 21 days, but there would be no temporary bridge so the road would be closed from the east. This would result in detours of 15 miles and up to 30 minutes.

Alternative C would take most of the construction season, but would keep the road open.

Board member Lee Gustafson – who lives on Popple Dungeon Road – asked VHB representatives Aaron Guyette and Jason Keener if they thought they could get 60 foot tractor trailers needed for alternative D up the road. They said it would be tight but it could be done.

A large number of drivers used Popple Dungeon Road to get around the gasoline tanker crash on Route 11 in 2014. Many were unsure of the correct route until a sign was put out at Ethan Allen Road. Telegraph photo.

There were concerns about the effect on neighbors from the noise of a three-week, 24-hour construction schedule. But what swung the board in favor of C was what a detour out of Chester, through Andover and Windham would do to response times for police, fire and ambulance services.

Board member and Deputy Fire Chief Ben Whalen said that mutual aid response times of departments to the west of Chester would be just as long or longer and board chair Arne Jonynas noted the large number of houses along Popple Dungeon as well as side roads.

It was also noted that in an emergency on Rt. 11 – like the gasoline tanker accident in 2014 – Popple Dungeon becomes an alternate route.

In the end, the board decided that providing uninterrupted emergency services was worth the $8,000 difference between the two alternatives.

Salvage ordinance in the works

Board members began the discussion of an ordinance that would regulate the storage of items ahead of a public hearing to be held on May 2. The ordinance grew out of complaints last year by residents who live near properties that had substantial accumulations of vehicles, appliances, tires and other items including trash on Chandler and Amsden Hill roads.

A sign along Rt. 10 at Chandler Road encourages people to drop scrap there.

At its April 4 meeting, the board received a “redlined” draft ordinance from town attorney Jim Carroll along with a briefing on the advantages and disadvantages of adopting it. Board member Heather Chase and Town Manager David Pisha reminded the board that Carroll that enforcing the ordinance could be expensive and time-consuming.

“That’s a good point,” said Gustafson, “but not a reason not to do it.” Gustafson pointed to health and safety issues involved with large accumulations of junk.

Chester resident Derek Suursoo said that the narrow focus of the complaints seemed prejudicial to him.

“There are very few properties causing concern,” said Suursoo, who urged the board to use other options first and “have this in your back pocket.”

Board members agreed that they would like to have a clean copy to read before the next meeting. The board also said that the question of whether to adopt the ordinance would then be taken up at the May 16 meeting.

Weather pushes town expense up

Pisha ran the board through the quarterly numbers for the general fund, water and sewer noting that the town is behind by about $51,000 on income compared to last year because there had been tax sales in January 2017 but not this year. In addition, expenses are about $17,000 ahead of 2017 due to the endless winter.

Both water and sewer are in the black and Pisha presented a graph showing power production for solar farm on Rt. 103 and how that relates to income for the town.

Ellsworth Clinic shift to dental

In response to a letter from Springfield Medical Care Systems dated April 11 that explained the decision to move medical services out of the Ellsworth Clinic building on Main Street to be replaced by an expanded dental clinic, Chase told the board that she was highly disappointed that the organization had not consulted the town first.

“It doesn’t make me feel that Springfield is a community hospital,” said Chase.

Chase was concerned that the town’s elderly would have to find transportation and travel farther once the move has happened. Although it was not mentioned in the letter, SMCS representatives told The Telegraph that people with transportation issues can use SMCS’s Health Transit for assistance in getting to health centers and wellness programs. For more information, call Julie Merrill-Snide 802-885-7604.

Suursoo said that the clinic has had a tax exemption for housing Visiting Nurse Association, but Hance said she thought that has been reduced since the VNA moved out. Pisha said he would look into the exemption.

In other business

The board interviewed and appointed Michael Normyle and Heather Chase for the posts of Zoning Administrator and Health Officer respectively. Chase recused herself from the vote. An interview of Mark Curran was also on the agenda but will be rescheduled since he could not make the meeting.

Liquor licenses as well as permits for outside consumption and for entertainment were reviewed and approved by the board.

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