Chester OKs spending articles at Town Meeting Large 2019 Highway Dept. deficit blamed on weather

Residents file into the refurbished Chester Town Hall for Monday night’s Town Meeting. Photos by Cynthia Prairie

By Cynthia Prairie
©2020 Telegraph Publishing LLC

About 100 Chesterites filled the old wooden benches in the refurbished Town Hall Monday to vote on — and pass almost unanimously — 22 Articles, most to allocate funds for town equipment and non-profit organizations that serve residents.

The first two of the 24 total articles will be voted on by Australian ballot on Tuesday, March 3, along with the presidential primary. Voting takes place until 7 p.m. at Town Hall, 556 Elm St.

Those two include elections for local public officials in which three candidates are running for two seats each on the Chester Select Board and the Board of Directors of the Green Mountain Unified School District.

Early in the meeting, Rep. Tom Bock, left, and Sen. Alison Clarkson, right, gave an update on happenings in Montpelier. Moderator Bill Dakin is in center.

The other would allow the town to borrow up to $157,500 using general obligation bonds or notes to purchase a backhoe for the Highway Department.

Article 3 — to allow the town to accept five private gifts for the upkeep of family member cemetery lots at $250 each — breezed through without a peep.

But Article 4 to raise $3.4 million in taxes met with some, although minimal, opposition.

Moderator Bill Dakin then skipped over the other major fiscal articles when the video display prepared by retiring Town Manager David Pisha, who has had a long-running dispute with technology, failed to work.

The audience went on to pass Articles 9 and 10 to allocate $4,000 for Meals on Wheels and $2,500 for the Independence Day Chester Fireworks.

With the help of Assistant Town Manager Julie Hance, the video display finally worked and the audience turned their attention to the major fiscal Articles 5 through 8.

Select Board chair Arne Jonynas answers a question about the budget.

Pisha told the crowd that while several departments in Chester town government underspent their 2019 allocations, the Public Works Department overspent its $1.2 million budget by $139,000.

Pisha said the deficit was attributed to the weather, which forced the Highway Department, which is part of Public Works, to spend more on overtime and road material such as stone and gravel.

The only other agency to post a deficit was the Police Department, which was almost $11,000 over budget.

Pisha also praised the work of the town’s emergency responders, saying that in 2019, the Fire Department answered 180 calls and the Emergency Medical Services answered 411. He then urged people to volunteer for these much need services.

In the end, residents voted to spend $452,000 for Fire Department air paks and turnout gear, town signage, repairs to Route 35, backhoe and loader loans and to replace Palmer Bridge off Route 103 North, with the remaining $278,000 transferred into the Bond Plan.

Retiring Town Manager David Pisha, left, gets a standing ovation from the Select Board and the audience.

Town Meeting attendees also approved $140,000 to buy a dump truck for the Highway Department and a police cruiser for $52,000, to be financed over five and four years, respectively.

And Sylvan and Peck roads and Elm Street will also see resurfacing, costing $100,000 and financed over four years.

As the meeting ended, Select Board chair Arne Jonynas acknowledged the work of Pisha, who was given a standing ovation to thank him for straightening out town finances that were in disarray when he arrived and for his 11 years of service since. He’ll also be honored at an open luncheon on Friday.

Besides Meals on Wheels and the fireworks, other service groups approved for funding are:

  • $13,800 for Visiting Nurse Association & Hospice of VT & NH
  • $3,044 for Health Care and Rehabilitation Services
  • $3,040 for SEVCA
  • $3,000 for the Chester-Andover Family Center
  • $2,250 for the Current transit services
  • $1,800 for Community Cares Network
  • $1,500 for Neighborhood Connections
  • $1,200 for Senior Solutions
  • $900 for the Women’s Freedom Center
  • $800 for Windsor County Mentors and
  • $400 for Green Mountain RSVP
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About the Author: Cynthia Prairie has been a newspaper editor more than 40 years. Cynthia has worked at such publications as the Raleigh Times, the Baltimore News American, the Buffalo Courier Express, the Chicago Sun-Times and the Patuxent Publishing chain of community newspapers in Maryland, and has won numerous state awards for her reporting. As an editor, she has overseen her staffs to win many awards for indepth coverage. She and her family moved to Chester, Vermont in 2004.

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