Chester board reviews budget, capital expenses

By Shawn Cunningham
© 2019 Telegraph Publishing, LLC

With department heads for fire, police, ambulance, highway, water and sewer present, the Chester Select Board continued its review of the 2021 budget at its Dec. 4 meeting.

First up was Water and Sewer as the board put on their commissioners’ hats and looked at a budget that generally showed a small positive balance that has come from the rate hikes mandated by the state’s drinking water fund as a condition for lending money to upgrade the water system a couple of years ago.

In the past, revenues have not always kept up with expenses for the services, and Town Manager David Pisha told the board that the increases are over for now and the finances are solid.

Water and Sewer Superintendent Jeff Holden told the meeting that the town’s portable generator is now assigned to the Town Hall as a shelter in an emergency, leaving the Jeffrey Well without the back up power the state requires for a water permit. Holden said the well pump would require a 25 kilowatt generator at a cost of around $100,000, although the cost could be reduced by the town doing some of the installation work.

Other department heads answered board members’ questions on their budget requests.

Board member Leigh Dakin questioned whether donations to the Yosemite Engine Company – an independent tax exempt organization that serves as the fund raising arm of the Fire Department – should be funneled through the town’s accounting system with purchases subject to approval by the town. Board chair Arne Jonynas told Fire Chief Matt Wilson that the there could be times when Yosemite might purchase equipment that might need to be replaced, putting the town on the hook for that.

There was a long discussion of smoothing out the large payments due from the capital and bond funds in 2023 and board members questioned strategies for purchases of things like police cruisers and dump trucks.

The board passed over the budgets for Recreation, Parks and Cemeteries and the Whiting Library until the next meeting, when the heads of those departments would be present.

Fairness of town fee to Transfer Station questioned

Wanda Purdy told the board that by her reckoning, not a lot of Chester residents have purchased tickets to use the Transfer Station in Springfield and she is wondering if it’s fair for the town to be paying $40,000 per year for the service when other towns in the area do not. Board members said they would look into the question.

David Pisha told the board that attorney Jim Goss would shortly file the application for an Act 250 amendment for extracting gravel from the Route 103 site purchased several years ago for the town’s second water tank. The hope is that the town could be bringing out gravel this summer.

Pisha also noted that the state’s Traffic Committee would be meeting at 1 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 11 to decide whether to reduce the speed limit on Route 103 in the area near the Green Mountain High School. According to Pisha, the traffic engineers who came out to look at the area are recommending that there be no change. B0ard members can participate in the meeting by phone to plead the case for bringing the speed limit down from 40 mph to 30 mph.

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