Select Board hears of Jersey Girls’ lawsuit against Chester

By Shawn Cunningham
© 2020 Telegraph Publishing, LLC

The Chester Select Board went into executive session on Wednesday night to discuss the lawsuit Jersey Girls Dairy owner Lisa Kaiman has filed against the Town of Chester seeking damages for losses she says her businesses have taken resulting from the weight limits on the bridges that cross the Williams River to her properties along Route 103 north.

Lisa Kaiman speaks to the select board regarding bridge replacement last September. Telegraph file photo

The suit – on behalf of Kaiman and two limited liability corporations – alleges that the town failed in its duty to maintain and keep bridges on Thompson and Palmer roads in proper repair. The suit claims that that resulted in limited access to milk trucks and other commercial vehicles and machinery as well as customers for the Jersey Girls Farmstore. She also claims it cut off the access to the farm property that ANMIK LLC (in which Kaiman is a principal) purchased from Palmer and Laurie Goodrich and resulted in Kaiman being unable to conduct farm operations.

Kaiman is asking for damages to be determined by the court for her losses and for damage to the fair market values to her properties. The suit also demands attorney’s fees and costs.

The board met briefly and returned from executive session without taking any action.

Questions about re-assessment and grievance procedure

In response to an agenda item for  a contract with New England Municipal Resource Center to provide ongoing services to the Listers office, Chester resident Peter Hudkins told the board that he felt he had been “gamed” when he tried to grieve his reassessment. Hudkins also noted that no grievances were appealed to the Board of Civil Authority, which is very unusual.

‘I was gamed,’said Peter Hudkins regarding his attempt to grieve his reassessment

“They seriously gamed me,” said Hudkins. “I think you’ll find that if you complained, NEMRC representatives dropped everything $10,000.” Hudkins said he asked for two pieces of information NEMRC and the town for his grievance and never received them. He also said he was denied access to a book of property values that should be public information. Hudkins also said that on his grievance day, he spoke with a NEMRC representative to explain that he had to be in Hanover for a health issue. But he was then told he would be unable to grieve the assessment nor could he appeal to the BCA.

“They gamed a lot of people in town, I think,” said Hudkins.

Board chair Arne Jonynas said he had heard from a number of people who also complained and had $10,000 to $15,000 knocked off their assessment.

Hudkins said that NEMRC works on a contract basis for a contract price.

“It doesn’t pay them to give the town’s citizens good service,” said Hudkins. “It pays them to make it as short as possible. So you’re talking about signing a contract when it doesn’t seem like they’re doing a very good job for the town on the contract they already have.”

Hudkins said the board should compare the number of grievances the town received after the 2008 reappraisal to this year when there are none.

The board decided to delay voting on the contract until Town Manager Julie Hance had the opportunity to look at it.

Pinnacle issues and recreation update

As part of her Covid-19 report, Hance said that the Recreation Department is finding ways to operate with smaller groups of people including with its sports clinics. Hance also said the department plans on opening the pool with a limit of 25 people using it at any one time.

The board also discussed complaints by neighbors of the Pinnacle recreation area. Neighbors say that the noise coming from the area is excessive and that people playing there are loudly using foul language.

Town Manager Julie Hance explains the steps the town will take to reduce noise and eliminate other nuisances that have been a problem for neighbors of the Pinnacle Recreation Area

Nikki Geannelis, who lives near the Pinnacle,  also noted that there has been an increase in drug deals at the recreation area, more trash and loud music played from parked cars as people play basketball.

Hance said the use of the area has doubled in the past five years and that the town would be installing signs asking users to put limits on noise, volume of music and language and suggested that the area be closed at dark.

She said that there had never been a parking area on the south end of the Pinnacle but people began parking there last year when the chain was down for work on the tower at the top of the hill. Going forward, the chain will be left down and a gate installed at the hut next to the skating rink. This will create a parking lot for around eight cars.

Hance said that next year the town would budget for a row of hemlocks to grow into a solid screen for abutters to the south and that she would speak with Police Chief Rick Cloud about enforcement.

Yosemite, Academy Building repairs

Hance told the board that the town is trying to balance repairs to the Yosemite Fire House and the Academy Building so that some progress on each continues while staying under budget. The work would involve some roof repairs at Yosemite to prevent damage from leaks and – if allowed by Preservation Trust under their conservation easement – ceiling repairs where past leaks have damaged plaster.

The issue with Preservation Trust is that the repairs should be done in an historically correct manner, but the only bid received so far is extremely expensive. Hance said the town would look for more bids and if the price doesn’t come down it will appeal to the Easement Council of the preservation organization.”We’re trying to keep both projects progressing somewhat,” said Hance.

Frank Kelley thanks all the people and organizations that helped with this year’s Green Up Day

Green Up Day coordinator Frank Kelley thanked everyone who participated in the annual event held on May 30 this year and gave special recognition to the families who have participated in it through the 50 years since its inception. Kelley thanked the Holdens, Huffers, Delaneys and Hudkinses among the long-time participants.

Speaking for the American Legion, Board member Jeff Holden asked the board for its blessing on having a fireworks display celebrating the July 4 holiday. Holden said the American Legion would advertise that people should adhere to  the recommendations of Gov. Phil Scott and the Vermont Health Department, but that the group would not enforce them.

“Everybody knows what the Covid standards are … we shouldn’t have to have someone down there to police them. We’re all in the mood for some sort of community event,” Holden said. The fireworks would be held on Friday, July 3.

“I’m all for it,” said Board member Lee Gustafson, while Board member Heather Chase asked what the plan was for social distancing and other measures.

“That’s going to be their personal preference,” said Holden, “I’m not going to kid you, we’re not going around enforcing that.”

Jonynas said that the consensus of the board was for the Legion to go ahead “as long as we adhere to the guidelines in place at the time, I think it’s doable.”



Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Filed Under: ChesterFeaturedLatest News

About the Author:

RSSComments (3)

Leave a Reply | Trackback URL

  1. Wanda Purdy says:

    In response to Mr. Hudkins comments about NEMRC. First I don’t know what “gamed me” means. He was treated fairly as was everyone in town. He is upset because his grievance didn’t go his way. NEMRC did not lower peoples assessment by $10-15,000 indiscriminatley. Thats a blatant lie. He was also never denied access to any info that I know of. But some of the info he wanted was not an appraisers job to get for him. It is the property owners responsibility to get his own comparables and not to expect the assessor to do it for him. As a lister for the town and this is my third reappraisal, I feel that NEMRC did an excellent job. Unfortunately, there are always people who are not happy its the nature of the job.

  2. Tim Roper says:

    I can’t help wondering how a neighbor has a census on the number of drug deals being done at the Pinnacle. Or, could that just be alarmist talk designed to spur some police action?

  3. Barre Pinske says:

    The property taxes don’t come close to the cost of the bridges for the folks in the river valley plus with the flood zone not much more housing or industry can help off set the costs in the future. In the best interest of the citizens of Chester and to not pay for things that have no benefits for them as a group it my be best to gift the roads and bridges to the land owners and let them build a private bridge. Regulations make the costs of the bridges so expensive impact studies etc. I’m pretty certain I could build a bridge you could drive a train over for $200 K with out any problem if people would leave me alone to do it. Obviously some one else would have to clean up after me! This is a bad deal in many ways I hope there is a good resolution with long term sensibility.