Chester board nears final budget version

By Shawn Cunningham
© 2020 Telegraph Publishing LLC

Last Wednesday, the Chester Select Board took its next-to-last look at its 2020 budget with the goal of limiting an increase in the tax rate. At the time of the meeting it appeared that that the budget was $241,565 greater than last year — equivalent to 6 cents per $100 of assessed value.

Select Board members Arne Jonynas, Lee Gustafson and Leigh Dakin went over the budget with the department heads of Police, Fire, Ambulance, Public Works, Recreation, Parks and Cemeteries and Water and Sewer to look for any savings.

Board chair Arne Jonynas, left, follows along as Town Manager David Pisha explains changes in the proposed budget for 2020. Photos by Shawn Cunningham

Town Manager David Pisha told the board that the expenses for almost every department are down from last year, but that the weather has made the Public Works budget difficult. Pisha said that frequent rain and ice storms last winter and this past fall have forced the town to use more sand and gravel.

On Tuesday, Jan. 14, Pisha said the budget stands at $263,719.40 more than last year due to weather. “If it would just snow, we could scrape it out of the way and put down some sand,” Pisha told The Telegraph. “But when we get ice and a little snow we end up scraping off the sand and when it rains the sand washes off.”

The increase represents a 6½ cent increase per $100 over last year, which would mean an additional $130 in property tax on a $200,000 home.

Pisha said that the Emergency Services Building bond represents 1¼ cents of the increase.

The board will meet to finalize the spending plan on Wednesday,  Jan. 15 with signing the warning for March Town Meeting scheduled for Jan. 17.

Economic Development and the Town Plan

The board went on to review Chapter 10 of the Town Plan revisions sent to it last year by the Planning Commission. The immediate reaction to the chapter was that many of the references in it were out-of-date and needed to be updated or deleted.

Telegraph Publisher Cynthia Prairie explains the importance of local news media to economic development

The town has gotten high speed fiber optic internet service since the last revision and as an economic driver, board members thought that should be highlighted in the chapter.

Following on that Telegraph Editor and Publisher Cynthia Prairie told the board that a community having a newspaper is less and less common and that local news outlets are also economic drivers. Prairie asked that the economic development chapter make some mention of that as an asset. She also noted that as an online newspaper, The Telegraph is a worldwide point of contact for the communities it serves.

Bill Dakin cautions the board to take care in the wording of the Town Plan

Board chair Arne Jonynas praised The Telegraph for the service it provides to Chester and other area communities.

Bill Dakin noted that the tone of the Town Plan needs to be specific because it can have a bearing on Act 250 decisions in the future. In the past, the Planning Commission’s concept was that the plan should not be more concrete but rather more aspirational.

The board is sending these and other more specific comments back to the commission for their consideration.

Caring for bridge flowers; health care for town workers

Chester Townscape member Lynn Russell asks the board for some help with watering the bridge boxes

Speaking for Chester Townscape, Lynn Russell renewed her organization’s request for help from the town during the summer when the 28 flower boxes they place on several bridges in town need to be watered every day. At previous meetings there had been discussion of hiring someone to do that for two hours per day and to float among several departments the rest of the time.

Russell explained that watering all those boxes with milk jugs was getting more difficult for the older members of the group.

At last week’s meeting Recreation Director Matt McCarthy said he would get together with Town Manager  Pisha to see what they could come up with to help.

Jeff Holden told the board he had been a town employee for nearly 30 years and asked the board to consider that many town employees are on call 24 hours a day including nights, weekends and nasty weather before cutting their health benefits.

The sign made years ago for the new public safety building awaits

Holden noted that he had taken a $4 per hour cut when he joined the town to get  health care. He said the no out-of-pocket payment policy keeps good employees who are dedicated.

Later Holden also told the board that there is a sign that was created for the public safety building years ago before it went to a vote. Holden said he would get a photo of it to Gustafson so he could show it to the architect who is working on the project.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Filed Under: ChesterFeaturedLatest News

About the Author:

RSSComments (1)

Leave a Reply | Trackback URL

  1. Barre Pinske says:

    As a planning board member and some one who cares about the economic viability of our town I assure you we as a group are doing our best. The world is changing fast I for one think there is a chance the whole dynamic of what a small town is changing because of on line shopping, working from home and young people wanting to live more experientially. Other issues include the difference between the value of the grand list, the value of local business to its people and culture needs including simply having a place to gather and be entertained. We are also unique because of being a resort and vacation area so much property is owned by second home owners so we don’t support the daily needs of the property owners so when they are here we lack the resources to meet their needs. There are no colleges near by for a part time incentivized work force, no sales tax across the river, better tax incentives also in NH for bigger businesses along with very limited water, sewer and flat high ground to put any type of factory. With all due respect to my peers on the board and our community leaders I don’t believe we have the vision or brain power to really figure this one out with out help it’s a big complicated subject. I have suggested looking at other successful models but most of them involve arts and culture which probably seem self serving. I have said there is a river of gold going through our town it is so true yet so few people here can pan it for more than excavation and road jobs, snow plowing, cleaning and lawn mowing. I have two new friends I had dinner with each on a different nights this week one friend ran the Vatican bank and was an economic adviser to George H Bush the other works for JP Morgan Chase he’s team manages 1trillion dollars in investments. We have people with incredible resources and talent available to us coming through our town and for the most part we have no idea how to benefit from it.