Chester board OKs Yosemite as fire museum

By Shawn Cunningham
© 2018 Telegraph Publishing, LLC

Three and a half years after the Chester Historical Society said it could no longer afford to keep the Yosemite Fire House and more than two years since the town started legal action to pursue ownership of the building, the Chester Select Board accepted the vision statement of an informal committee to turn it into a fire museum and TO take the lead in the effort.

Historic Preservation Committee chair Lillian Willis asks the select board to approve using the Yosemite Fire House as a fire museum. Photo by Shawn Cunningham

The Chester Historic Preservation Committee* was formed to advise the town on conserving and protecting several historic buildings that the town owns including the Academy Building, Town Hall, the Whiting Library and Yosemite.

Committee chair Lillian Willis has been asking the board to decide on the museum use for several meetings and, at its July 18 meeting, the board requested a basic vision statement to consider in making the decision.

Board member Lee Gustafson asked what the procedure and schedule would be for putting the museum together and whether the committee would be seeking outside help with what he called “a lot of work.”

Willis told the board that the group would be seeking the input of others and that they had visited a number of fire museums to see how things were displayed. According to Willis the group will work with Town Manager David Pisha and Executive Assistant Julie Hance to come up with a plan of action. Ahead of that however, Willis asked that the board authorize the committee to ask donors for artifacts.

In a related action, the board authorized the expenditure of $3,000 from the historic facilities line in the town budget for architectural historian Hugh Henry to research and write a National Register of Historic Places nomination.

Several board members asked if listing the building on the Register would limit the town’s use of the building. Willis suggested that the board speak with Devin Coleman who, as Vermont’s Architectural Historian, is the liaison with the National Register, which is administered by the National Park Service.

Funding work on storm water problem

Also, Hance told the board that the town has been approved for a loan from the state’s Drinking Water Revolving Loan Fund to work on the storm water problems in the Mountain View/Kevadus Circle neighborhoods.

These photos, shot by Jake Arace, shows melting snow and rain flood Mountain View Road. On the left is the view from Route 103; on the right is looking at Route 103, which it intersects at the stop sign.

She said that the project is on a priority list and, to stay on that list, a preliminary engineering report must be submitted by Dec. 31, 2018. Hance asked for the go-ahead to fill out a “step one” application and put out a request for qualifications for the work, which is expected to cost around $25,000 and be rolled into the Drinking Water Fund construction loan.

At the same, Hance is looking at an alternative funding source for correcting the runoff problems. An Ecosystem Restoration Grant, which would have a 10 percent to 15 percent match, may be available from the Agency of Natural Resources later this year. It pays for a design/build process and would save the town money but no guidelines for the grant program have been put out yet and so Hance is pursuing both avenues.

In other action

  • At the request of board member Heather Chase, the board looked at the questions of whether there should be a policy for town parks including hours and trash problems. Chase said that there was supposed to be a trash receptacle at Rainbow Rock but that hasn’t appeared and she has seen a lot of trash there.Board chair Arne Jonynas said he had not seen so much trash and that he leaned toward not doing anything in terms of a policy “until we have an issue.” Board members Ben Whalen and Lee Gustafson agreed and Pisha said the town would get a trash can out to the swimming hole.
  • Pisha told the board that The Northern Forest Center will hold a kick-off meeting at the Town Hall on the evening of Thursday Sept. 20. The meeting would begin the process of studying whether the town should try to own the 1,800 acre Tomasso forest in Smokeshire. When the exact time for the meeting is set, we will put it on The Telegraph Calendar of Events.
  • For the next meeting – which will be on Sept. 5 as the Aug. 15 meeting has been canceled – board member Dan Cote asked that the board hear from Police Chief Rick Cloud on how effective the town’s speed signs have been.
  • Cote, who has consistently praised the quality of the town’s water, also wants to hear from Water and Sewer Superintendent Jeff Holden. Cote is interested in the capacity of the water and sewer systems to support businesses that might move to Chester for the high quality water.

* Chester Telegraph Publisher Cynthia Prairie is a member of  the Chester Historic Preservation Committee.

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  1. Virginia Blake Clark says:

    My friend Lynne Reed sent me the contact with you. As you may know I grew up in Chester, graduated from H.S. in 1940. I was the youngest of 4 children. I grew up on Popple Dungeon Road and wrote the book The Source: Popple Dungeon.

    Glad to hear the town is fixing up the old Fire Station!