Hance tells board Public Safety building is on schedule

By Shawn Cunningham
© 2020 Telegraph Publishing, LLC

While it may appear to a passerby on Pleasant Street, that construction of Chester’s Public Safety Building has stalled, according to Town Manager Julie Hance, the standstill is a sign that the project is not only on schedule but also saving money.

The Public Safety building site awaiting concrete. photos by Shawn Cunningham

At its Sept. 16 meeting, Hance told the Select Board that the reason nothing much was happening on the site was that the town crews had moved the 9,000 cubic yards of fill the project needed from the town’s pit and had done it so quickly that they put the project about a week and a half ahead of schedule. Between using the town’s own material and not paying for a contractor to truck it, Hance estimates, the town saved between $70,000 and $80,000.

The next phase will be concrete and that is waiting on the delivery of rebar.

“Kudos to the town for handling that,” said Select Board chair Arne Jonynas.”They were hauling quite a bit, it was a week and a half, two weeks those trucks were lined up at six in the morning waiting to dump. They did a nice job.”

“There are lots of stories about what has happened,” said Hance. “Please be assured that we have not defaulted on permitting or run out of money.”

Hance also told the board that Jason Julian of AllStone had offered a sizeable donation of native stone that could be used for walkways, walls or other landscaping that is not in the budget but could be done in the future.

Jonynas said he thought native stone from Chester was a nice touch. Hance said she will get back to the board with details.

Speed limit update

Under old business, Hance told the board that the town has arranged for speed monitoring on several of the streets where residents have asked for reductions in speed limits. Southern Windsor Regional Planning will be providing cables that will stretch across High and River streets. These count cars and estimate their speed. In addition, the Chester Police Department will be placing the town’s portable radar speed sign on Andover Road as soon as the battery is charged. Speed monitoring on Depot and Church streets will be done with the permanent radar signs there.

The goal, according to Hance, is to provide the board with enough data to discuss the problem and to have a public hearing on any speed limit changes they find necessary. Board member Lee Gustafson suggested that the signs and cables be left in place for more than a few days or a week.

“If the things are there for more than a week it gives people the chance to get used to them and then ignore them,” said Gustafson.

Historic buildings

Select board members inspect some of the ceiling damage in the Academy Building in August of 2019. Telegraph file photo

Also in old business was the repair of a ceiling in the Academy Building caused by a leak in the roof, which has since been repaired. Because Preservation Trust of Vermont has put funding into the building in the past, that organization has a conservation easement — agreed to by the town — that gives it the right of approval on repairs and other changes to the building. The preferred fix for the ceiling problem is plaster, but the only bid the town has been able to get was $36,000. Replacing the ceiling with sheetrock would cost $21,ooo but that would not be approved. The other alternative would be to put up blueboard and skim coat it with plaster, which would be somewhere in between those two estimates.

A 1772 Foundation grant of $10,000 could assist in paying for the plaster option, bringing the preferred solution to $26,000. Hance said she would like to apply for that grant for next year rather than this and put the money from the historic building line of the budget toward straightening the Yosemite Fire House and getting it structurally sound. That work will cost about $17,000 with Wright Construction doing it and an architect monitoring it. The historic building budget fund has about $35,000 in it.

The board also approved Hance’s request to apply for a historic preservation grant to finish the exterior work on the Academy Building in 2021. The grant application will go in the first week of October, with a decision expected to be announced in mid-December.

“Once this is done, we can move forward on the interior of the building,” said Hance.

Property tax numbers solid, waiving HS-122 penalty

Hance told the board that the tax collections as of Sept. 16 were more solid than expected with 94 percent of the taxes due being paid, which is in line with what happened in 2019. With the downturn in the economy caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, it was expected that more people would have a hard time paying taxes.

“Have you had anyone ask for more time to pay?” asked Gustafson.

Hance said that a few have — mostly in the past few days. “Anybody who asked,” she said, “had paid the largest portion of their bill but didn’t have that ‘extra $1,500.’ Nobody has a payment arraignment that stretches past 12 months and there are less than a dozen of those.”

“For the most part, anybody who has asked, we have waived the penalty, because they paid the most part of their bill and mostly had justified reasons,” said Hance

In addition to the good news on property taxes, Hance asked the board to waive – for this year – the 3 percent penalty for filing a homestead declaration late. The board approved the waiver.

 

 

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