Chester board OKs gravel studies, source for Act 250 funds

By Shawn Cunningham
© 2019 Telegraph Publishing LLC

Pisha fills the board in on the progress toward getting a permit to extract gravel Photos by Shawn Cunningham

The Town of Chester, through its attorney Jim Goss, is preparing to file applications for an ACT 250 permit and a zoning permit to extract gravel from a site on the 139-acre parcel it purchased in 2016 for siting a water tank as part of a system upgrade.

At the board’s regular meeting on June 5, Town Manager David Pisha told the board that Goss was ready to file the paperwork as soon as the necessary traffic and noise studies were done.

At a previous, special session on May 29, the board discussed the cost of obtaining the permits, with board member Heather Chase expressing skepticism that the $25,000 estimate would cover it.

Road foreman Graham Kennedy explains the increasing expense of obtaining gravel

Road Foreman Graham Kennedy told the board that the costs of sand, gravel and crushed stone is going up and he expects to be traveling farther to get it, which further increases the cost. Kennedy noted that this would only be for the town’s use and not a year-round pit and, in the end, it would save taxpayers money. The town uses about 5,000 cubic yards of gravel, 1,000 yards of stone and 7,500 yards of sand per year on average.

Saying that she was not against the  project, Chase said the board still needs to “keep up” with the costs.

At the May 15 board meeting, Chase noted that it had been a year since the board had spoken with the attorney and insisted that she wanted to hear directly from Goss rather than receiving information through Pisha. Pisha suggested asking Goss for a summary of work done to date and possibly speaking with him by phone in a future executive session.

Chase says she’s not against the project, but wants to ‘keep up’ with the costs.

On May 29, with Goss’s summary in hand, the board identified $25,000 as estimated legal costs, $10,000 for engineering by Dufresne Group and $14,300 for RSG to do noise and traffic studies for a total of $49,000.

But in his summary, Goss noted that “it is literally impossible for me to estimate how much more this matter may cost the town.” He wrote that having someone oppose the permits would drive up the costs, but it’s unclear whether there will be opposition. Goss also said that the expenses to date are lower than other projects he has done given the “extensive discussions” he had had with the state to arrive at a final site plan for the work.

With the cost higher than previously anticipated, the board looked for a source of money and found it in the Irene Fund, which contains FEMA money paid to the town for work done after Irene. When work came in under budget, the remainder became part of the fund. With a balance of around $75,000, the Irene Fund represents money that is subject to federal audit and may be requested to be returned. FEMA has three years after the books on Irene are closed to ask for the money back. Two years remain.

Board chair Arne Jonynas said he thought the gravel permit was the perfect use for the Irene Fund and it is worth the small risk that the federal government might ask for the money back.

After a 35-minute executive session on May 29 to review the confidential portion of Goss’s summary,  the board voted to use the Irene Fund for expenses connected with the gravel permit and voted to authorize Pisha to sign the noise and traffic study contracts with RSG.

Also at the May 29 special meeting, the board considered the state inspection report for Bridge 28, which crosses the Williams River on Palmer Road  and voted to follow the recommendation of state engineers and lower the load limit to three tons.  Administrative Assistant Julie Hance told the board that the state would have a plan coming in a month or so to consolidate the three bridges along that stretch of the river. She added that issues concerning the bridges will need to be resolved among the landowners on the other side of the river.

Issues on the Green

Engineer Naomi Johnson explains the variables in connecting the information booth to the town sewer.

On June 5, Naomi Johnson of Dufresne Group explained the challenges in hooking the bathroom in the Information Booth on the Green to the town sewer. Currently, the booth is served by a 1,000 gallon holding tank. Johnson explained the pluses and minuses of a gravity system and a sewage pump station.

Board members asked a number of questions about the choices of how to connect the service, how the costs compare to pumping the holding tank and as well as raising the frequency of pumping each season.

The cost of running the service depends largely on what is  under the ground and the relative depths of the septic outlet to the connection in the street. Jonynas said that a gravity system is the better way in the long run, if it can be accomplished.

In the end, the board asked Johnson to work with the Sewer Department to get the needed information and return with a recommendation.

With the Chester Historical Society’s lease of the Academy Building coming up in March 2020, the board began a review of the agreement to see what changes might be made to the arrangement. Jonynas pointed to the lease’s restrictions on use of the building and grounds by the town noting that  “it’s a big building” and that it’s time to brainstorm about its best use.

Chase told the board that she felt that the matter should be discussed in executive session.

Jonynas and board member Lee Gustafson didn’t see the necessity of a closed door session, but Gustafson wanted to see whatever opinions the town’s attorney had written about the property and the board decided it should make a site visit before continuing the discussion.

Treatment Plant road no more … and other business

On behalf of the American Legion, Ron Farrar requests a change in the name of Treatment Plant Road.

Ron Farrar of the Chester American Legion Post #67 asked the board to change Treatment Plant Road to Legion Drive in an effort to make the organization’s event facility more attractive. Noting that the legion now has a great venue for events, he pointed to the downside of having an invitation to a wedding wedding reception read “51 Treatment Plant Road.”

Board members agreed. Gustafson moved to make the change and the board voted unanimously.

Jeff Holden was reappointed to the position of Fire Warden and, after an interview in executive session, Phil Perlah was reappointed to the Development Review Board.

The board is also considering where to hold its meetings while work is being done on the Town Hall restoration.

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  1. Randy Miles says:

    Larry I believe the noise study came from the then new bylaws of 2017 and is now in place across the board for any new business or anything that may have noise associated with it. In short weather you are a large project on a small one you now need to have a survey done by some one some where in some office. They will on computer determine the study of your lot, equipment and the noise level that may come of it? The new regulation is no higher then 70 db in day time use and less in the evening hours. Also the average cost of one of these studies is from $3,000 and up! Also Larry I asked if the town had any thing in place to check noise level or possible violation? They replied no. I offered info for a noise decidable meter for the town to buy. The cost was $600 for a pretty good one that was easy to use. I offered this to be a meter that could be rented out or used by any project in town that would have to comply with new regulations. This could save the owner of the new business or new addition/project to a business a lot of money and time. The town was not interested and I still think we have nothing to measure or no real formal way to address someone in violation? Larry I was in support of that gravel pit to be able to stay open and supply a service and product to our community as well as support a business in our town. They were shot down and that cost them a LOT of money and time. Now we want to do the same thing? All I can say is WOW! I think there was a way to do that with limit to blast times and amounts of blasts in the year. Like summer and vacations when school is not in. But a small group had there way and the gravel pit was closed! Except for when the big floods came here then it was ok again to extract gravel there for a while? Hope all this helps?

  2. G. Donohue says:

    This site already has an Act 250 permit. To quote ANR, “Once an Act 250 permit is issued, the permit runs with the land and is binding on any (future owner)”. The permit was not extended/approved a few years ago due to objections from the High School and Green Mountain Turnpike residents after an Environmental court ruling I believe.

  3. Larry Reed says:

    What is different about the current proposal for extracting gravel from this site next to the school that differs from the 2007 and 2016 proposals? Why is the town paying for a noise study when one was completed in 2007 for what appears to be the same purpose?