Chester board OKs funding for marketing efforts, looks at speed limits

By Shawn Cunningham
© 2020 Telegraph Publishing LLC

In introducing a marketing effort for Chester to the Select Board on Wednesday, Aug. 5, Bob Flint, executive director of the Springfield Regional Development Corporation, said it started with a call from Town Manager Julie Hance to see if there were opportunities the town should look into in the current economic and public health situation.

SRDC Executive Director Bob Flint introduces the discussion of a marketing program. Photos courtesy of SAPA-TV

That seemed like an appropriate question as Flint noted that he has had more business acquisition conferences in the past month than in a normal year. As real estate sales heated up, Flint, Hance and Okemo Chamber director Carol Lighthall looked for ways to market Chester as a place not just to visit, but as a place to move to and start or bring a business.

The trio worked on an initial campaign to “test the waters,” as Flint put it, and decided to link their work to the Meet Chester website put up by the Chester Economic Development Committee with an eye to “build on it with a broader committee to work on a longer term, sustainable marketing plan” for the town.

Lighthall presented some image concepts for the board to look at saying that the effort would lean heavily on social media and digital marketing and include a display ad and a video using drone footage of Chester.

Throughout the meeting, however, it was difficult and sometimes impossible to hear what speakers were saying, even upon reviewing the SAPA-TV videotape. The problems may be attributed to a hybrid of in-person and a Zoom virtual gathering, with various sound and microphone systems cobbled together.  Hance said the town was looking into solutions for the problem.

Chester resident Steve Mancuso, center, objects to the use of tax dollars to support marketing without also supporting small business as Flint and Lighthall look on

Of the marketing plan, Flint said, “This will be a proof of concept looking at the metrics.” Lighthall called it an investment in the town as the group asked for $10,000 from Chester’s Economic Development Fund, which has a balance of nearly $300,000. The intention behind the fund has been to provide”last dollar” financing for businesses that needed money to add to existing loans to fund projects.

In the past, the fund has lent money to businesses like Misty Valley Books, Heritage Deli & Bakery, Chester Laundry and wood carver Barre Pinske. Loans are generally for capital expenditures to help businesses grow and create jobs. The Town of Chester has also borrowed from the fund for improvements such as new water meters. And the fund has been tapped for economic development projects such as paving and striping Common Street on the Green and the creation of an ill-fated town website.

Lighthall said that as a “safe place,” Chester is a magnet and that the focus of the campaign would be on high population/low community infection areas that show up as green on the state’s visitation map.

Town Manager Julie Hance assures board members that the project will be ‘very Chester-specific.’

Chester small business owner Steve Mancuso felt that too much attention is being focused on the tourism side of the economy saying that, “Chester is more than just a tourist trap on the ski bunny super highway.”

“Now you’re asking for tax dollars,” Mancuso continued. “Where are the tax dollars to support the rest of Chester’s small businesses?”

Flint said that it was as much about getting people to move here and to bring their businesses with them while others explained that tax dollars were not the origin of the fund.

Board member Jeff Holden was concerned that Chester would be rolled up in a regional campaign but Hance told him that “this is a very Chester-specific project.”

Board discusses speed limits on several roads

Board member Leigh Dakin has been insistent in asking for a review of speed limits on town streets and roads

For several months, board member Leigh Dakin has been asking for a discussion of reducing speed limits on a number of streets in Chester including Grafton Street, where Dakin lives, as well as River and High streets.

Before the meeting, board members received a booklet on regulating speed limits and Dakin admitted that it was unintelligible to her. Others said that while it sounds complex, the traffic engineering study that gathers the data needed to make decisions on speed limits is relatively simple.

“We don’t need to hire an outside company,” said Hance. “We can do it ourselves with the help of (Southern Windsor County) Regional Development.” She noted that it involved rather simple equipment including wires that run across the road to count traffic and determine speed.

Board member Lee Gustafson asks that the traffic engineering study be done so the board can discuss the topic with information.

Ralph Falanga, who lives on the Andover Road, said he would support a reduction in speed limits, but that the underlying problem in traffic control is enforcement. “There’s not enough of that going on,” said Falanga.

After a bit more discussion, board member Lee Gustafson said, “We need the data to see whether a reduction is warranted and then we can look at enforcement.”

“Let’s get the equipment, deploy it, get the information and put it on an agenda so we can look at it,” said Gustafson.

State of flags on Main Street called a ‘disgrace’

Saying that he supports the American Legion and means no disrespect toward it, Chester resident Tim Roper told the board that the state of the flags along Main Street is a disgrace to the town and they should be removed. The flags were purchased by the Legion and hung on utility polls along the street and over time have deteriorated.

Tim Roper, left, discusses the condition of the flags along Main Street with board member Jeff Holden. Both men are members of the American Legion which sponsor the flags.

Roper, an Air Force veteran and a member of the Legion, said that, “Any improper display or handling of our flag is offensive to me.” Roper said he understands that the flags are the Legion’s responsibility and he does not mean to disparage the organization, but “if (the flags) are in disarray, it reflects poorly on our town.”

“May I ask you a question?” asked board member Holden, who is also a Legion member and has represented the Legion at a few board meetings.

“What hat are you wearing at the moment?” board member Heather Chase, acting as chair, asked Holden.

“A concerned citizen and a lifelong member of this community,” Holden replied.

Chase noted that if this was to be a discussion it should be warned on a future agenda.

Regardless, Holden said he wanted to know what Roper objected to and a discussion ensued.

Roper pointed to several examples of violations of the federal flag code and Holden said he would take whatever suggestions Roper had back to the Legion. Roper said they should be taken down and only displayed “on holidays and parade days.”

The flags have since been removed.

In other business

Hance told the meeting that construction on the public safety building should begin with mobilization and site work on the week of Aug. 17. She noted that there will be a small groundbreaking ceremony at the site on Thursday, Aug. 13.

The board approved the use of the Chester Green by the Liberty Players for an educational performance in which Lawrence Zupan, a former U.S. Senate candidate, will give a 15-minute monologue portraying a Revolutionary War officer while Zachary Zupan will read the Gettysburg Address dressed as Abraham Lincoln and Netanel Crispe will show artifacts he has found with his metal detector. Hance was authorized to determine a date in August for the presentation.

In another excavation-related story, the Vermont Heritage Archeology Center requested that the town formally donate some stone artifacts it found while doing a required survey for the installation of the solar farm on Route 103. The artifacts relate to the activities of indigenous people in this area. The board approved the gift.

 

 

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  1. Tom Knockenhauer says:

    I guess some flags carry more importance than our American flag.

  2. C. Baker says:

    The speed limit needs to checked on River Street. Drivers use it as a short cut to 103. That’s fine but for some reason some stomp on the gas coming down the hill and stay in the middle of the road to go around the blind curve at the bottom of Putnam Hill Road. It is only a matter of time before someone flying east causes a head on crash on the curve or T-bones someone exiting/entering Putnam Hill. Two black pick up trucks (one with a trailer) and a little white car are the worst offenders but there are others. Lots of people walk on this road and bike with little kids, strollers and dogs. We don’t need a tragedy here. Seems the hot shot wanna be racers need an officer to remind them to slow down and stay to the right?

  3. Arlene Mutschler says:

    Interesting comment that there is not enough enforcement of the limits? Chester is listed as a speed trap! Right up there with small southern towns! and to watch for cops hiding on private driveways and bushes.. and business parking lots. Just interesting. Not a opinion, just a comment.

  4. Kate Lynch says:

    I have often wondered why the hoarding situation on Route 11 has never been addressed. I drove over that way last week and noticed the fencing (or baracade) has started to deteriorate and some of the hoarded items are beginning to spill in to Route 11. I read last week that the citizens of Chester were appalled by he condition of the flags and said they were a disgrace. What is a disgrace, is the years of junk, metal and trash that have been accumulated on this property with no concern by the town of Chester. Is there any reason why this eyesore had been ignored for so long?

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