Chester solons mull water, gravel and Hogs

By Shawn Cunningham
© 2019 Telegraph Publishing, LLC

Acting as the town’s Water and Sewer Commission, the Chester Select Board, at its April 17 meeting, approved taking out a $45,000 from the state’s Drinking Water and Groundwater Protection Division to inventory and map the entire water system.

Megan Young explains the loan program to the select board. Photos by Shawn Cunningham

The Asset Management Planning loan is offered to help municipalities get a clear picture their water systems and to plan for maintenance, upgrades, expansion and other changes in the future. If the town completes the plan within a reasonable time, the state will forgive the loan and the town pays nothing back.

Megan Young, Capacity Development Program coordinator for the water division, told the board that much of what makes up a water system is in the heads of its operators. “They know a ton about the water systems and it’s all up here,” said Young pointing to her head and noting that towns often have to rely on the memories of retired operators for information about parts of the system. The goal of the loan program is to get that information out and into a format that will help the town plan for decades ahead.

Once a plan is established, the operator of the system would be responsible for updating the plan whenever anything in the system is changed.

According to Young, doing this now will put Chester ahead of the curve. Young said the state’s Water Supply Rule is slated to be revised, after which an asset management plan will be required. However there won’t be enough money for all the towns that will need to create one. The initial survey of the water system will begin in May.

Gravel on the hill and Hogs on the Green

In old business, the board discussed the progress of the town’s Act 250 permit amendment to quarry gravel from property on Route 103 South purchased from M&M Excavating for the water system expansion.

Town Manager David Pisha told the board that attorney Jim Goss was working on Fish & Wildlife to come to an agreement on the area to quarry and on enhanced easements from the adjacent Chester-Andover Family Center and Drew’s All Natural for access to the property.

Lee Gustafson called for a serious discussion on using more of the former M&M property than the Act 250 decision allows.

Pisha said that the Act 250 application should be filed in the next few weeks and he hopes quarrying can begin in the summer. Board members felt that might be a overly optimistic schedule, but Pisha said Goss is confident that it can be done. Board member Lee Gustafson repeated his feelings that the restrictions due to the deer wintering yard on the 139 acre property are excessive since deer move around and may not come back.

“I don’t want to poke the bear,” said Gustafson referring to the state.”But we need to have a serious discussion about using other parts of that property.”

“As the legislative body, we should be able to make decisions that are good for our community,” said Gustafson.

Board member Heather Chase noted that the property comes with a history of Act 250 decisions that the town knew about when it purchased it for the water project. Chase said that the purchase was about the water and that getting the gravel was considered icing on the cake.

“That’s one way of looking at it,” replied Gustafson.

Pisha suggested that Gustafson make his thoughts known to Goss.

The board also heard – by phone – from Barry Bricarell who is an organizer for the Iron Adventure Run, a gathering of Harley Davidson owners that has visited the area in the past. This year, Bricarell was asking permission to hold the event’s closing ceremonies on the Chester Green from 5 to 8 p.m. on Saturday July 20.

David Pisha is working with the chamber of commerce to support large events.

Organizers expect around 1,250 motorcycles to participate in the three-day event centered around the Jackson Gore Inn in Ludlow with day rides throughout Vermont. Bricarell told the board that the event would introduce participants to the local flavor and that many of them would come back at a later date to explore the area on their own.

The group asked the town to provide a police escort for the group as it enters Chester, reserved parking around the Green and electrical power for the public address system. The board authorized Pisha to coordinate the event. Pisha said he and Carol Lighthall of the Okemo Chamber of Commerce were working on a committee to support large events like this.

Gustafson suggested that someone contact some of the businesses in town so they can be prepared. He cited gasoline as an example. “A motorcycle gas tank is only four or five gallons, but if you have a thousand bikes here it adds up.”

In other business: EMS building, town loader

Pisha told the board that town attorney Jim Carroll has reviewed the contract for Russell Construction to continue its work on preparing the EMS building plans and costs ahead of a town vote. Pisha said the building committee will meet again in the next week or so.

Another vote may also be needed as the warning for Town Meeting in March did not contain an article authorizing the town to spend the capital funds it had budgeted for a new loader. According to Pisha, the current loader has a number of problems and just taking care of the worst would $18,000 to $20,000 with no guarantee that it would hold up.

The town has another loader, but this one is expected to be used for the 6 to 8 week period of gravel extraction on the land purchased for the backup water tank. The board also discussed buying the loader using a loan, renting a loader for the gravel extraction (if the Act 250 permit is done by this summer) and holding a special town meeting where the purchase could be voted from the floor.  Gustafson asked Pisha to have Road Foreman Graham Kennedy explore the cost of renting a loader and come before the board at the next meeting.

The board voted to put Robert Greenfield on the Development Review Board for the final year of an unexpired term. Greenfield was one of three candidates interviewed for a spot on the Planning Commission. Peter Hudkins was selected, but board chair Arne Jonynas said the board reached out to Greenfield to see if he wanted to serve on the DRB.

The review of proposed changes and additions to the town plan was on the agenda for the evening, but the board postponed that until the May 1 meeting.

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  1. Henry Dent says:

    The Green Mountain Union School District must, for the sake of our community, seek Active Party Status in the Act 250 process to defend and protect public education in Chester Vermont.