Chester board mulls construction finances, choices

By Shawn Cunningham
© 2021 Telegraph Publishing LLC

In an accelerated meeting last Wednesday that took visiting members of the Andover Select Board by surprise, the Chester Select Board heard from Town Manager Julie Hance about the finances and schedules of the soon to open Public Services Building on Pleasant Street and the soon to be renovated Town Garage.

The Chester town garage as seen from the top of the sand pile. Telegraph file photo

The electrical inspection for the new building, which will house police, fire and ambulance, is scheduled for Friday, Aug. 13. If all goes well, Hance said, the town should get a certificate of occupancy (or a conditional certificate) so work can begin on installing technology such as the computer network. That work has been delayed from Aug. 16 to give workers a little “breathing room.” That change would push the move-in date to the week of Aug. 30 with a grand opening in September.

Due to delays in beginning the work and escalation in materials costs – a result of the Covid-19 pandemic – the work ended up $120,000 over-budget. In an earlier meeting, the board approved using $120,000 from funds coming to the town from the federal American Rescue Plan Act to make that portion of the project whole.

At the same time — and for the same reasons according to Hance — the estimates for the highway garage are $140,000 over-budget. Hance said that under these circumstances, the garage work should go out to bid soon. She also said that the town had agreed to cover some expenses outside the bond issue, which pays for the two projects.

Town Manager Julie Hance explains the cost overruns and the strategy for managing them. Image courtesy of SAPA TV

Hance said she is looking at several ways to save money so it won’t be necessary to borrow to make up for the shortfall. Among those are savings from the opening of the town’s gravel pit, possibly deferring the purchase of a dump truck next year and continuing to under-spend the budget. Hance has noted that in the first half of the year, the town has spent 4o percent of its budget.

To get the construction numbers under control, Hance had at first looked at items that could be eliminated and installed later, but asked the board to consider adding back into the budget the fire sprinkler system and the ventilation hood that remove toxic fumes from the welding bay at the garage. Board members agreed that health and safety features should  return to the mix.

Hance’s goal is to pull together enough savings to make a soft landing, but if those don’t meet the shortfall, she will ask the board for short-term borrowing to be repaid from the 2022 budget.

Federal money in the pipeline to Chester

As reported by the Chester Telegraph in late July, the U.S. Treasury Department announced that it was changing the way “county-designated” funds from the American Rescue Plan Act would be disbursed to Vermont. Those funds had been earmarked for county governments throughout the country but since Vermont does not have general government on that level, the money will now go to the cities, towns and villages. Hance had said that the expectation is that Chester will receive around $600,000, which with the $316,000 coming to the town in the first phase of funding, will total more than $900,000.

The money has certain restrictions with a concentration on water, sewer and broadband projects. Hance is looking at things the town can use the money on, but wants to make sure that all of the town gets some benefit from the funding, not just those in the water and sewer districts. She continues to emphasize that there will be public meetings to get input on projects for the ARPA money.

Andover board seeks info on speed limits, cost of fire, ambulance coverage

Julie Hance talks with Andover select board member Scott Kendall about speed limits and budgeting for fire and ambulance coverage Image courtesy of SAPA TV

That’s the fastest select board meeting I’ve ever been to,” said a visiting Andover Select Board member as the Chester board wrapped up its business just after 6:35 p.m., 35 minutes after the meeting was called to order. To be fair it was a short agenda, but the board had covered a lot of ground.

Andover board members Scott Kendall and Jed LaPrise spoke about their board’s deliberations on speed limits on the Andover-Weston Road and later asked that the Andover board be able to take part in the Chester board’s budgeting discussions concerning the amount to be charged for fire and ambulance coverage by Chester’s departments.

The board agreed and Town Manager Julie Hance suggested the first meeting in September.

“We should start the process earlier but that may take a little longer if we have two full boards,” said Hance.

Board of Civil Authority to meet

Comprised of the Select Board, the town’s justices of the peace and the town clerk, the Board of Civil Authority and Board of Tax Abatement will meet at 6 p.m. on Wednesday Aug. 11. They will look at an abatement request from Salvatore Matano on behalf of St. Joseph’s Church in regard to a tiny house. They will then have a deliberative session followed by purging of the voter checklist. The meeting will take place at town hall and on Zoom. To attend, go to


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