Chester updated on Depot St. sidewalk project

By Shawn Cunningham
© 2019 Telegraph Publishing LLC

This Google map shows scope of project as well as troublesome intersection at Coach Road.

The main event at Wednesday’s Chester Select Board meeting – a public hearing on the federally funded sidewalk project along Depot Street – almost didn’t happen when the presenters were unable to make their PowerPoint presentation work. But when the situation seemed darkest, outgoing board member Dan Cote retrieved a computer from his truck and got the presentation going again.

At a “local concerns” hearing in September 2018, Naomi Johnson of Dufresne Group described the project as 2,500 feet of sidewalk that will be 5-feet wide and have a 6-inch curb, greenspace between the sidewalk and the street and pedestrian scale street lights every 100 feet. Johnson also said that the planning would include looking at the intersection of First Avenue and Coach Road at Depot Street with an eye toward making it safer.

A photo of Coach Road at Depot as it is today and a rendering of proposal. Comparison photos courtesy of Dufresne Group

Last Wednesday, Johnson returned with Christina Haskins to show a preliminary design plan for the project.

According to Haskins, the design is scheduled for completion in 2020, with the project going out to bid in that winter and construction starting that summer.

Among the highlights of the design are the lowering of the sidewalk along Barre Pinske’s building, a change in the intersection of Depot Street with Coach Road and First Avenue to shorten the crosswalk and make the traffic pattern clearer and, finally, turning the “Y” as Depot Street turns west into a “T.”

At left, existing sweeping right hand turn onto Depot Street. At left, tighter proposed turn.

It was the last proposal that elicited the greatest reaction. Board member Ben Whalen, who lived at that intersection for many years, told Haskins and Johnson that he had misgivings about the ability of trucks to negotiate the turn. Executive Assistant Julie Hance said that Road Foreman Graham Kennedy also objects to the change for similar reasons.

Johnson suggested increasing the radius of the turn from 30 feet to 40 feet, but that did not seem to make it any more palatable.

At the end of the presentation, Haskins said there would be a meeting for people whose property abuts the sidewalk that will include a walking tour. None of the abutters came to Wednesday’s meeting.

Economic development fund report

Remus Preda and Gary Gibbs of People’s Bank gave the board their annual report on the investment of the town’s Economic Development Fund.

Gary Gibbs, left, of People’s Bank, briefs the board on the investment of the economic development fund. Photos by Shawn Cunningham

In the past, the fund has lent money to businesses like Misty Valley Books, Heritage Deli & Bakery, Chester Laundry and wood carver Barre Pinske. Loans are generally for capital expenditures to help businesses grow and create jobs. The Town of Chester has also borrowed from the fund for improvements such as new water meters. The town has also used the fund for economic development projects such as paving and striping Common Street on the Green and contracting for a town website that was later scrapped.

While the portion of the fund that is invested in stocks took a hit with the market downturn in October and December, Gibbs told the board that it had rebounded since then and that People’s is still advocating keeping 60 percent of the fund in stocks. “We feel confident that equities will do better in the long run than bonds or cash,” said Gibbs.

In other business

Members of Scout Troop 206 ask the board for help getting documents from the Chester Historical Society.

Members of Boy Scout Troop 206 are working on their Citizenship in the Community badges and, as part of that, three of the boys addressed the Select Board. Conner Miles, Colt Patoine and Jacob Thayer asked the board’s help with accessing and copying records relating to the history of the troop during its 100 year anniversary.

According to the boys, because of stability issues with the Academy Building they have not been able to use the materials they understand are in the Chester Historical Society. After a brief discussion, the board asked Pisha to connect the Scouts with society President Ron Patch to see if something could be worked out. Landscape architect Scott Wunderle offered to let the scouts use his high resolution scanner.

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