Chester board hears of safety building opening, raises ambulance rates

By Shawn Cunningham
© 2021 Telegraph Publishing LLC

As the new Public Safety Building is readied for an open house on Sunday, Sept. 26, Assistant Fire Chief Ben Whalen came before the Chester Select Board to explain that much of the new furniture and other equipment that people will see were not paid for by taxpayer dollars but through the fundraising efforts of the Yosemite Engine Company.

Ben Whalen, center, explains the fundraising done to furnish the new Public Safety Building

The organization, of which Whalen is president, is a private fundraising organization that supports the Fire Department with equipment, training and public relations but is not part of the department and does not report to it. Whalen said that about $37,000 was raised to furnish the building.

The group holds an annual Christmas tree sale and raffle in addition to cooking hot dogs, hamburgers and sausages for sale at the Chester Festival on the Green. They also send out an annual letter seeking donations.

Among the equipment that the Yosemite Engine Company purchased are a number of large screen monitors that Whalen said are used for dispatch and mapping not as televisions.

Ambulance furnishings have been purchased with funds from Chester Rescue – an organization that supports the Ambulance Service while funds for the police station furnishings come from the forfeiture fund.

Ambulance billing rates to rise

Town Manager Julie Hance told the board that the rates charged by the Chester Ambulance Service are quite low by comparison with other services in Vermont. She noted that in the past it was decided to raise the rates by 3 percent per year, but that was never done.

Hance also recommended putting the billing function with Comstar, which would also collect on past due ambulance bills. Comstar provided the town with an analysis that shows that Chester charges far less than its other Vermont clients. Based on that she suggested raising the rates to  approximately where they would have been if the 3 percent per year raises had been instituted.

The board approved an increased schedule of charges and board chair Arne Jonynas signed it saying that there would be room for a needs-based allowance.

“We’re not here to chase you down and take your house,” said Jonynas.

“That’s what it means to be a neighbor,” said board member Lee Gustafson.

Walking bridge over Lovers Lane Brook

Under old business Hance told the board that the piles for the new walking bridge across Lovers Lane Brook won’t be driven until mid-October, but the bridge can be set there shortly after the piles go in. Then the railings will be fabricated and the bridge will be open to get people over to the new hiking trail. Hance said she hopes for a November opening.

Hance also said she is working on a date that will suit both the Andover and Chester select boards to meet about fire and ambulance coverage that has been a bone of contention recently.

The board also finished its review of the contract to refurbish the town garage and approved it.

And the board heard from Kathryn Murphy and Ben Whalen who put their names forward to fill the unexpired term of Jeannie Wade on the Green Mountain Unified School Board. The select board forwarded both names to the school board. The person chosen by the school board will serve until March 2022 when Chester voters will elect someone to finish the final year of Wade’s term.



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