Pisha rebukes Grafton board on Rt. 35 facts Grafton Administrator Kearns seeks 'date certain' on repairs

By Cynthia Prairie
©2019 Telegraph Publishing LLC

In a forceful letter, Chester Town Manager David Pisha has rebuked the Grafton Select Board for discussing Chester’s plans regarding repairs to Route 35 without calling the town first “to find out the facts.”

“That is not how I would expect neighbors to behave,” he wrote in a two-page letter dated Thursday, Feb. 21. Pisha also challenged a number of statements made by Grafton board members during its board meeting of Monday, Feb. 18, including an assertion that the town of Chester had done no work on Route 35.

Chester Town Manager David Pisha has his hand on a stack of files filled with work that the town has done on Route 35. Photo by Cynthia Prairie

In the meantime, the Grafton Town Administrator has returned with an offer to drop the legal proceedings if Chester sends a letter with a “date certain” for completing the Route 35 road work.

In Pisha’s letter, he wrote that “Chester has worked diligently … to maintain the road. It was paved in 2004 … in 2009 … 300+ feet were repaired following Tropical Storm Irene … 300 foot section repaired in 2017.” You can read the letter in full here.

Last week, The Telegraph reported that the Grafton board discussed the issue during its meeting and talked about a petition drive to force the town of Chester to take immediate action or face legal action.

Pisha’s  letter went on to explain Chester’s process for handling such projects. He also chastised Grafton Town Administrator Bill Kearns for “not understanding” Chester’s budget in claiming that the town only budgeted $60,000 for road repairs. Pisha added the budget “might not have been apparent to someone giving our budget a casual look.”

‘Date certain’ unlikely, Pisha says

The letter from Pisha seemed to have little impact on Kearns, although he admitted on Monday that he “may not have understood the (Chester) budget.”

But he went on to say that he called Pisha on Friday, before receiving the letter, and told him that if Chester would give “us a time or date certain for skim-coating Route 35 from the Grafton line to the concrete bridge, we probably wouldn’t go forward with giving this to the road commissioners. ” He emphasized, “We just want a date certain when the skim-coating will be finished. ” With that in hand, he said, “we’d just give him a copy of the petition.”

As for a “date certain in writing,” Pisha said on Monday afternoon, “I don’t think that is going to happen. I don’t think the Select Board will agree to anything that concrete. There are too many variables in a project of this scope. It’s too big and complicated. … and there are weather delays.”

He added that the Chester Select Board believes it is “on the right path for a long term fix … we are asking the voters to authorize the bond” on March 5 to pay for the work.

‘Unofficial’ effort mounted by two officials

Grafton Town Administrator Bill Kearns, right, helps board chair Joe Pollio find papers concerning the Chester Route 35 issue during last Monday’s board meeting. Screenshot from FACT-TV.

Another point of contention has been whether the letter topping the petition drive was officially from the Town of Grafton or just from private citizens.

The petition drive was mounted by Grafton Select Board chair Joe Pollio, the letter was written by Town Administrator Kearns, it was listed as a discussion item under “Highway Report” on the Select Board agenda, Pollio did not recuse himself from sitting among his fellow board members as he lead the discussion and the letter and petition were to be sent out by Kearns.

However both Pollio and Kearns said that they undertook the effort as private citizens.

Pisha scoffed at that notion, saying, “As town administrator, if I create a form, it is because the Select Board has directed me to, not because a private citizen has. It (all) gives the appearance of being official.”

Kearns said, “I know what it looks like.” But, he added, if the petition “had been an official thing from the (Grafton) Select Board, we certainly would have approached the Chester Select Board first.”

He added that he had heard enough Grafton residents complaining about not getting a satisfactory answer from Chester that he felt “talking to David wouldn’t have done any good.” Besides, he said, “As a recovering attorney, I want something in hand (writing) that is a response to that petition.”

Pisha reiterated, “All of this could have been easily been avoided if someone (from the Grafton board) had dropped by and asked about the fix.”

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About the Author: Cynthia Prairie has been a newspaper editor more than 30 years. She has worked at such publications as the Raleigh Times, the Baltimore News American, the Buffalo Courier Express, the Chicago Sun-Times and the Patuxent Publishing chain of community newspapers in Maryland. She and her family moved to Chester, Vermont in 2004.

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  1. Payne & Elise Junker says:

    Skim coating the road seems like a waste of time and money, and it certainly will not hold up for long. Better to grind up the pavement, grade it, roll it, put in a real guardrail
    for safety, and wait for real money to fix it right.

  2. Jimmy Mitchell says:

    This is a joke.
    Referring to work done in 2004, seven years before Hurricane Irene hardly has a bearing on the work they have failed to undertake since that event.
    In the years since Chester upkeep on a major road, on which children routinely commute to school, amounts to a bunch of haphazardly placed jersey barriers partly blocking cars from falling into an open gully. It is beyond disgraceful.

  3. Darryl Douglas says:

    Well let’s rip up the pavement and go back to a dirt road until it can be budgeted and repaired to the high standards that Grafton is demanding. They say this was a private act and not an official act by the town of Grafton.

    But I am reading a lot about it being discussed at the Grafton select board meeting. That sounds official to me. Who are the Grafton selectmen to start telling surrounding towns how to conduct there business?

    I see where we have money in the budget to do work on Grafton road and other roads. But they want us to stop work on our other roads just to please them. Just turn it back to a dirt road.

  4. Joanne Pluff says:

    I have to agree with Joy. Patching every few years isn’t helping it. I am certain that the selectman were hearing the input on their end and researched what they could do. This is a pretty good solution to my mind.

  5. Joy Ellis says:

    Yes Chester did 300 feet of repair after Irene (2011) But I think it took at least a year or two to get that done….because the road was half gone…..The upper part has had some cold patch over the last 10 years or so but continues to get worse and worse…..Not all of us can afford new cars every few years and this is ruining our older cars…..I don’t think a skim coat is going to do much for this road…..the holes are too deep …..