Chester board sets tax rates, OKs festival parking

By Shawn Cunningham
© 2019 Telegraph Publishing, LLC

The Chester Select Board set this year’s property tax rates at a special meeting held on July 2. The meeting was held in the Town Clerk’s office due to the renovation of the second floor of Town Hall.

This year’s municipal tax rate – the combination of the budget, the articles voted from the floor at town meeting and various education tax the town must pay for a number of tax exempt properties will be $0.7451 per $100 of a property’s assessed value. That’s roughly a penny more than last year’s $0.7352. This year, property taxes will be due in Town Hall by Monday, Sept. 16.

Board chair Arne Jonynas discusses the effect of the CLA and the current reappraisal Photos by Shawn Cunningham

The non-resident education rate rose from $1.3228 last year to $1.3539 this year — a 2.35 percent rise. The non-resident category includes second homes, but also commercial real estate. The resident rate – which includes primary homes – rose from $1.2141 in 2018 to $1.2175 this year. That’s a .28 percent increase.

Taken as totals, this year’s non-resident rate will be $2.0990 per $100 of assessed value while the resident rate will be $1.9626. Those represent increases of 1.99 percent and 0.68 percent respectively.

Board chair Arne Jonynas noted that the tax rates benefit from the town’s high CLA (Common Level of Appraisal) that compares the assessed value to actual sales values. The high CLA means that properties sell for less than the value they were appraised at in 2008 when the real estate market was at a high point. Jonynas said that the current reappraisal should bring values in line with sales, which theoretically would reduce assessments. At the same time, it will lower CLA and the question will be whether the new assessments will balance out the CLA drop.

Parking for chocolate fest approved

Pat Budnick of Motel in the Meadow told the board that she had been asked by Neighborhood Connections, the organizers of the annual Chocolate, Cheese and Chili Fest in Landgrove, to hold the event at her place on Monday Aug. 5. Budnick said she expected a large turnout and was trying to make sure there would be sufficient parking, asking the board if the event could use the former McNally property across the road from the motel to park cars from 5 to 8 p.m.

Pat Budnick explains how the Chocolate, Cheese and Chili Fest is moving to Motel in the Meadow

McNally home was damaged by Tropical Storm Irene in 2011 and became part of a buy-out program through FEMA and is now owned by the Town of Chester.

Town Manager David Pisha asked Budnick if the organizers would be able to provide a certificate of insurance to cover liability. Budnick said she would check and the board approved her request. The board also congratulated Budnick on the success of this year’s Music in the Meadow fund-raising for cancer research, which brought in $15,000.

Info Booth sewage; Springfield Transfer Station

Water and Sewer Superintendent Jeff Holden returned to the board with a less expensive option for hooking the town’s Information Booth into the town sewer system. The board had already compared the less expensive gravity flow option, which may be harder to engineer versus a pressurized system using a sewage pump. But Holden noted that using a single pump – rather than two — would “save quite a bit.”

Holden said that normally he would recommend using two pumps to cut wear by alternating and to have a backup pump in case one fails. In this situation – with one toilet – the time it would take to swap out a new pump would be minimal and the restroom could be shut down if there’s a problem.

Holden and the board also discussed the large maple tree nearby noting, that the piping could damage its roots and lead to the demise of the tree. Holden estimated that the tree was 60 to 80 years old. Board members asked for more information on lateral drilling for the pipes to minimize damage.

Board member Lee Gustafson explains the changes at the Springfield Transfer Station

Board member Lee Gustafson told the board that he and Pisha had met with Springfield Town Manager Tom Yennerell about the fee restructuring at the Transfer Station. Gustafson said Springfield was trying to make up a $100,000 annual deficit from running the facility. The downturn in the market for recycled materials played a large part in the deficit as does increasing costs to dispose of waste.

The new access fee – through a $25 sticker – was part of the solution Springfield arrived at along with a punch-card system of paying for disposing of household waste. Springield would also eliminate weighing waste in favor of accepting it by volume. The second part of the plan was put on hold after the public balked at having to use 30 gallon bags as a standard amount per punch. Many who recycle, compost and otherwise work at reducing waste generate very little volume but there was no option for smaller bags.

Solid Waste District representative Derek Suursoo said he liked the solution, in which the users are the ones paying for the service and he liked the $25 acces fee, but he was concerned about the equity of Chester’s annual contribution.

Chester pays $35,000 per year toward the operation of the station – or about $11.10 per resident – but other towns who use the Springfield facility do not. Board members noted that if the residents of Baltimore and Andover paid something similar it would be a significant addition to the funds needed to operate the Transfer Station.

“Equity is incredibly important,” said Suursoo.

In other business

Gustafson said that he had questions about the intent of the Energy Chapter of the Town Plan and would like to have a representative of the Planning Commission present when it is discussed. He thought that the board might need to devote a full meeting to the chapter and the warned discussion was set aside until Aug. 21.

Town Manager David Pisha explains what the town needs to do to begin the process of lowering the speed limit near the high school.

Pisha noted that the Agency of Transportation had sent the town a booklet with the findings that came out of a meeting and site visit on May 20 to look at a speed limit change on Rt. 103 near Green Mountain High School. The materials outline the process for requesting the change and the board will take that up at its next meeting.

Gustafson – whose business installs alternative energy generation equipment – withdrew his low bid for putting in the electric vehicle charging station after town attorney Jim Carroll said that the acceptance of the bid should be handled by the board rather than the town manager who is an employee of the board.

Gustafson’s bid was about $400 less than the next bidder on a $34,000 job that is funded by a state grant program. According to Executive Assistant Julie Hance, Carroll felt that it’s best if select board members don’t bid on town projects, but if they do, the decision to award a job should be made at the board level and the member should recuse him or herself.

Under old business, Pisha said that the EMS building committee had been meeting and that there was an “almost daily” conversation with the architect.  Jonynas asked if there would be a vote on a bond for the building in the fall but according to Pisha that depends on how quickly everything comes together.

According to minutes from the committee’s meeting on June 19, they are shooting for a presentation to the Select Board at its Sept. 4 meeting.

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  1. Richard Koonz says:

    What does the Transfer station do with funds they can receive from the deposit cans and bottles?