Chester voters OK bond for emergency services building $4.777 million project to set to begin in May 2020

By Shawn Cunningham
© 2019 Telegraph Publishing LLC

The floor plan for the proposed EMS building Photo provided

Chester voters overwhelmingly approved a $4.777 million bond issue to construct a 15,000-square-foot emergency services building on Pleasant Street and to renovate and upgrade the existing town garage. With 499 residents casting ballots on the lone issue, the bond passed 315 to 183 vote with one spoiled ballot.

With the approval of the bond, the remainder of the design work must be completed, bond documents will be prepared and the town will prepare for bidding the projects in the spring. According to architect Kevin Racek, work on both projects should begin in May with a 10- to 12-month building schedule.

“I’m very happy that people stepped up to make this happen and that voters saw the need for this and passed it,” Select Board member Lee Gustafson, who chaired the building committee that worked on the design of the building, said following the vote count on Tuesday. “I’m just glad it passed.”

Matt Wade votes as son Matthew looks on

Gustafson said that he has asked for a schedule for getting a clear understanding of the bid process and any problems that could crop up. “The biggest question is the interface with the state and meeting their expectations,”  Gustafson said.

One argument used in favor of the project was that the town garage that currently houses the town Fire, Ambulance and Highway departments is woefully out of code. Members of the select board were concerned about what steps the state might take to enforce health and safety codes if the bond was not approved.

“I was overwhelmed by the number of yes votes,” Fire Chief Matt Wilson said Tuesday night. “And I don’t think that the nays had any disrespect for the Fire Department but just showed concern for the numbers.”

Town Clerk Deb Aldrich prepares the final tally as staff and justices of the peace look on

Wilson said the new space will mean that valuable equipment that won’t fit into the current garage won’t be sitting out in the weather and rusting and the department will be able to work more efficiently.

Between today’s vote and moving into the space in 2021, Wilson said the department will scale back its request for building maintenance funds to the bare minimum since the garage will be gutted as part of the renovation.

Wilson also said that the department’s non-profit fundraising arm – The Yosemite Engine Company – is considering making furnishings for the new space the target of its annual fundraising appeal. “No decision had been made yet though,” said Wilson.

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  1. Tim Roper says:

    I’m happy knowing that the voting citizens of Chester clearly support this investment in our town’s future. The time was right for this upgrade and the plan seems to be well thought out, practical and should be adequate to serve us for many years to come. Kudos to our Select Board, to Lee Gustafson and the rest of the building committee on their work to get us to this point.

    I for one, will be pushing for making both buildings as energy efficient as possible since spending a little more money on air sealing and insulation on the front end will save us many, many dollars through reduced heating costs in the future. While that doesn’t require LEED certification, it does mean going beyond building code parameters to increase the efficiency of the building envelope, including the foundation.