Chester board clears way for police union vote

By Shawn Cunningham
© 2021 Telegraph Publishing LLC

The Chester Select Board chose not to challenge the makeup of a prospective union for the town’s Police Department after meeting in executive session last Wednesday night. An election can now take place to see if the six-member group of police employees — known as a “bargaining unit” — wants to be represented by the New England Police Benevolent Association.

Photo by Shawn Cunningham

The Select Board was required by law to decide how it wanted to respond to the petition to choose a collective bargaining representative and notify the Vermont Labor Relations Board by last Friday.

On Tuesday, Judith Dillon, executive director of the Vermont Labor Relations Board, told The Telegraph that she would be meeting with the parties on Wednesday Nov. 10 to finalize details for the election, including whether it will be conducted in person or by mail-in ballot.  “Most of the elections during the pandemic have been by mail,” said Dillon.

With those decisions made, the VLRB will issue an order to notify the bargaining unit of the election and the employer will have to post information about it. Because the police work in shifts and some would be on the street or doing other duties, an in-person election may be less feasible. If a mail-in ballot is selected, the VLRB will send out ballots with sufficient time for the police to vote and allowing time for return mail. The date for the election has not been set. When ballots are returned, Dillon will count them in public in the VLRB hearing room in Montpelier and each side can have an observer and others can attend in-person or virtually.

If more than 50 percent of the ballots are in favor of the representation, there will be a 10-day period for objections to be filed before the board would give a certificate of representation to the union.

Town revenues better than expected

Town Manager Julie Hance explains the third quarter financials Courtesy SAPA TV

Town Manager Julie Hance walked the Select Board through the third-quarter financials noting that while a few  expense lines are over budget, most are under and that revenues have been better than expected. She pointed to a few unexpected expenses like repair of the town pool liner, damaged when someone skateboarded on it. That prompted the installation of security cameras at the Pinnacle Recreation Area.

Hance said that break-ins at the Cavendish Town Garage – among others – also prompted the town to add cameras to other town buildings.

Hance told the board that the financial picture was “holding steady” and praised town department heads for keeping a tight rein on spending.

The budget process for 2022 will begin on Wednesday, Nov. 17 with a first round draft budget for the water and sewer departments, according to Hance. A review of other departments’ budget requests will take place in December.

Grants to update zoning over housing needs

Board chair Arne Jonynas signs the resolution to apply for the ACCD grant Courtesy SAPA TV

Hance asked the board to pass a resolution for applying for a grant from the Agency of Commerce and Community Development for zoning bylaw updating that would focus on housing needs and ways that zoning regulations can help the town to fill those needs.

The grant would be for just shy of $28,000 with a town match of 10 percent. Hance said the grant will be awarded over the winter and would then need to go out to bid. She added that the Mt. Ascutney Regional Commission – which has assisted the town’s Planning Commission in the past – is expected to bid. The board approved the resolution and board chair Arne Jonynas signed it.

The town is also expecting to apply for a Preservation Trust of Vermont grant named for the organization’s long-time executive director Paul Bruhn who died in 2019. The town would use grant funding to work on the doors and windows of the Yosemite firehouse.

The board discussed ways the town can use the American Rescue Plan Act monies. Board member Heather Chase kicked this off by asking whether ARPA funds could be used to buy the solar farm on Route 103 north in 2022 when the town has a purchase option.

Hance said that discussions with town departments has yielded a number of projects that would easily exceed the approximately $900,000 that the town will have received under the act. On Tuesday, Hance told The Telegraph that the funds do not need to be spent right away. She added that she wants input from the public, but with the holidays looming, thinks that meetings in January might draw out more people.

Bridge across Lovers Lane Brook

The Lovers Lane Brook bridge under construction on Tuesday Photo by Shawn Cunningham

While work continues on the bridge across the Lovers Land Brook behind the Academy Building, it may not be finished this year. Hance said that contractors who came to drive pilings for the structure found ledge just a few feet below the surface, forcing them to use blocks to support it. This triggered a review by the state that approved the new plan. But as the weather closes in, the finished bridge may have to wait for spring. The bridge will give the public easy access to the new hiking trail on the other side of the brook.

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  1. Ken Bergmann says:

    If it’s good for the police, DO IT!