Chester Zoning Administrator Normyle steps down; Hasbrouck named interim during search

By Shawn Cunningham
© 2020 Telegraph Publishing LLC

With one member under the weather and another on vacation, the remaining three members of the Chester Select Board worked their way through a relatively light agenda that saw the public portion of the meeting end in about an hour.

The board was asked to appoint Cathy Hasbrouk as interim zoning administrator after Michael Normyle resigned after more than a decade in the position. <small>Telegraph file photo

Town Manager Julie Hance told the board that long-time Zoning Administrator Michael Normyle had resigned. Hance said she would begin a search for his replacement and asked the board to appoint, in the interim, Cathy Hasbrouck, who has worked with Normyle as recording secretary for both the Planning Commission and the Development Review Board.

According to Hance, Hasbrouck is willing to do the job on an interim basis but would not have the time to take the job as Hance envisions it.

Hance noted this is an important position that is funded for only eight to 12 hours per week and that has not been enough time for guiding applicants through a sometimes complex permitting process that people are not familiar with. She said that this has led some to feel that the town is not business-friendly.

“There’s a lot of hand-holding involved,” said Hance. “But it’s important hand-holding because the process that they experience makes them feel whether or not we are a business-friendly community. If we are doing a big push on marketing to have people move here, bring a business here, we want them to have a positive experience.”

Hance said that – at minimum – 20 hours a week was needed to do the job and possibly more to make the job more attractive. Hance said that the new hire could help with some of the work in the listers’ office and even with some of the social media envisioned in the marketing push discussed at the last meeting.

The board appointed Hasbrouck to the position unanimously. Board chair Arne Jonynas thanked Normyle for his service to the town and wished him well. Normyle’s last day will be Tuesday, Aug. 25.

Flag ordinance discussion

Ron Farrar, second from right, discusses the Legion’s solution for the problem of American flags along Main Street being in poor condition.

Following discussion on proper display of American flags at the last Select Board meeting, a discussion of a flag ordinance was on the agenda, but board members and the American Legion – represented by Ron Farrar and Fred Derosia – agreed that the town had no authority to regulate the use of flags in town except to give permission to put them in certain places.

Farrar thanked the board for allowing the Legion to place the flags along Main Street and noted that donations will make it possible to replace the weathered old flags with new ones. He added that the Legion still intends to have the flags there from Memorial Day in May to Veterans Day in November. Jonynas made it clear that the flags are a Legion project and that the town did not force – or even ask – them to take them down. He also suggested a sign somewhere to say that the American Legion puts up the flags and a phone number to call if there’s a problem with any of them.

Employee benefits discussion

Town Manager Julie Hance asks for two select board members to help analyze the town’s benefit package

With budgeting season just around the corner, Hance said that she was making a “deep dive” into the subject of employee benefits in an effort to make the package attractive so the town can hire and retain good employees.

That said, she said that as an employee and someone who gets town benefits she would feel more comfortable if a couple of board members could work with her on reviewing and revising the package.

“There’s a lot of detail and it could take up every Select Board meeting looking at it,” said Hance, “I was hoping that the board could pick two members to work with me. I’ve had a lot of good conversations with employees, and I want to talk with the select board about where you are at.”

Jonynas said board member Heather Chase said she was “willing to step up,” and attend the meeting via Zoom. Board member Leigh Dakin also volunteered.

Old Jiffy Mart back on the table

The former Jiffy Mart has been empty since it closed on Oct. 11, 2016

The board went into executive session to consider acquiring the former Jiffy Mart, located at Depot and Main streets. The building was offered to the town as a donation from Champlain Oil back in November 2019 but then the company decided to list it again and withdrew the offer. Before going into the closed door session, Jonynas said the board would make no decisions that night.

Also before going into executive session, Hance told the board that Town Attorney Jim Carroll will be coming to conduct a conflict of interest training at the Sept. 2 meeting, and that there will be presentation of the Church Street Sidewalk scoping study and financials at the Sept. 16 meeting.

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