Chester Select Board sets tax rates, gets EMS building report

By Shawn Cunningham
© 2018 Telegraph Publishing LLC

The Chester Select Board sets the tax rate for 2018. Photos by Shawn Cunningham

At its July 3 special meeting, the Chester Select Board set the non-residential tax rate at $2.0580 per $100 of assessed value and the residential rate at $1.9493. Last year’s rates were $1.9793 and $1.9274 respectively. (The 2016 rates were $2.0182 and $1.9545.)

The rates represent an increase of 3.37 cents on the municipal tax rate (the money that runs the town) and an increase of 4.47 cents on the non-residential education tax rate. The residential education tax rate declined by 1.21 cents. Residential tax rates are charged on properties that are classified as homesteads or primary residences. All others, including second homes and businesses are considered non-residential.

One cent of tax per hundred on a $200,000 property translates into $20 of tax. So a $200,000 non-residential property would see an increase of $157.40 while a residential property of the same value would see an increase of $43.80.  Individual tax bills will differ depending on what properties are used for and changes in assessments from year to year.

Emergency services panel sidesteps feasibility study

EMS Building Committee chair Lee Gustafson reports on the progress of its meeting Telegraph file photo

Under old business, Select Board member Lee Gustafson and Town Manager David Pisha updated the board on the progress of the committee that is looking at building a new home for the fire and ambulance services. Last year, the town contracted with architect Claudio Veliz to conduct a feasibility study to identify the needs of each department and recommend the site that best fills them.

The study recommended building two new structures – one for fire and ambulance and a new town garage – on the current garage property, tearing down the old garage – which has a number of code violations –  and re-configuring and expanding the Police Department in Town Hall. To read the feasibility study, click here: Part 1;  Part 2;  Part 3;  Part 4;  Part 5;  Part 6;  and  Part 7.

According to Gustafson, the committee has instead concentrated on the Pleasant Street site, which was considered in past designs that went to bond votes and was rejected. The committee is looking at putting Police, Fire and Ambulance there while refurbishing and upgrading the existing garage for the Highway Department.

Town Manager David Pisha explaining that the committee is looking for the best way to use the Route 11 site which was not recommended in the feasibility study done last year.

Pisha – who sits on the committee – said that the group is in a “very preliminary planning stage” to find “the best way to utilize the Route 11 site.”

Pisha said that Russell Construction, which worked on the previous version of the EMS building is helping the committee, saying that it’s “simpler to redraw than start from scratch.” looking at space needs and that the feasibility did not get down to “taking the plans and moving a wall here and there.”

Asked if the committee was in the design phase of the project, Gustafson replied that they were in “the preliminary design phase.”

“At some point we are going to have a design phase and decide whether Russell does it or it goes out to bid,” said Gustafson. “When we build it, it will have to go out to bid, I don’t see any way around it.”

Gustafson noted that the feasibility study had recommended both the Town Garage site and the Pleasant Street site, but restrictions on the town site became evident. He told the board that representatives of the state of Vermont had looked at the latter site and found the town could build “a lot more on that site than we thought.” At the same time, the Feasibility Study cautioned that:

“The RT 11 site will only be able to accommodate smaller footprint structures if first provided with a substantial underpinning and (likely deep, heavily reinforced concrete) retaining wall on the east side of that site before any of the allowed proposals indicated here would be realistically accommodated. Not only is this ground sedimentary and likely easily shifted but it is on top of a flood prone region. During heavy, violent flooding…the retaining structure would have to be extremely substantial to resist any damage. This translates into a considerable potential expense before any construction…”

Minutes of the meetings also show that the town is considering an expansion of the town garage site, which would involve purchasing two lots on the Gold River Industrial Park and building a bridge over wetlands to connect them. The Gold River property is owned by Mike and Amy O’Neil, who used to live and work in Chester.  The asking price mentioned in meetings is $800,000. The purchase would take the land off the tax rolls.

Board votes to affirm junk ordinance

With the revisions discussed at the June 6 meeting in hand, the board took a formal vote on an ordinance that would give the town a tool to compel residents who have accumulations of junk on their properties, to clean them up.

While there have been questions raised about the expense of enforcement and other practical problems, board members have said it’s a good start and can be tweaked in time.

Jonynas, Chase and Gustafson voted in favor of the ordinance with Whalen voting against.


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