Chester board reorganizes, looks at buying solar field

By Shawn Cunningham
© 2022 Telegraph Publishing LLC

Town Manager Julie Hance acts as chair to begin the meeting. Image courtesy of SAPA TV

Town Manager Julie Hance called the Chester Select Board to order on the day after the Town Meeting Day election to begin its annual reorganization. The board quickly and unanimously elected Arne Jonynas to the chair, but then there was the unusual sight of a contested vote for vice chair – who presides over meetings in the absence of the chair.

At his first meeting since returning to the board, Ben Whalen nominated Lee Gustafson for the role that Heather Chase has held for several years.

“Just thought we’d throw it out there,” said Whalen.

Leigh Dakin nominated Chase and the vote went 3-2 in her favor. Gustafson was re-elected to the role of board clerk.

Appointments, paper of record

Arne Jonynas, center, and Heather Chase were returned to the positions of chair and vice-chair respectively.Photos by Shawn Cunningham unless otherwise noted

The board went on to approve a list of appointments to town offices including those such as Animal Control Officer, Regional Planning representative and Green Up Day coordinator  that have regular responsibilities. It also approved those that do not such as weigher of coal and inspector of lumber, shingles and wood.

There were only minor changes in the offices. Julie Hance is replacing Tom Bock as the Chester representative on the Mt. Ascutney Regional Commission and Road Foreman Kirby Putnam will represent the town at the Transportation Advisory Committee. Putnam replaces Arne Jonynas, who will become an alternate with the group.

The board also reappointed The Chester Telegraph as its paper of record. It also named the Vermont Journal as its print paper of record. After several years of confrontational presentations by the Journal, publisher Shawntae Webb told the board they had gotten off on the wrong foot and wanted to look forward.

The Journal will replace The Commons in that  roll. Hance thanked The Commons for stepping up “in a major way.”

Hance also said that the cost for both the Telegraph and Commons last year was not significant and that the goal was to get information in front of the largest number of people.

Solar farm purchase, speed signs and change in meeting time

Hance told the board that town attorney Jim Carroll was looking into the possibility of the town purchasing the solar farm behind the Jeffrey Barn on Rt. 103 North. The facility sits on town land and, as part of the original agreement, the town has an option to buy it this year. According to Hance, Carroll said that the town does not have the authority to own a public utility and that other municipalities do that through another entity.

Returning member Ben Whalen suggested changing the day and time of the board’s meetings

Gustafson, who owns a solar installation company, said he believed that the town was not a utility, but a generator of electricity. Hance pointed to the two contracts for power that the solar farm has in place.  Gustafson said that at 150KW, the array could handle most of town government’s power needs.

According to the contract with Green Lantern – the developer – the sale price would be a mutually agreed upon number based on a third-party appraisal. The subject will be on the next agenda.

Responding to some inquiries, Hance said that digital speed signs for roads — including Andover Road — are back-ordered and are expected in May. They will be mounted immediately upon arrival. In the interim, Hance said the Chester Police are working to be more visible on the roads.

Whalen asked the board if it was open to changing the day and/or time of its meetings to make it easier for him to get to them. After some discussion, the board decided to stick with Wednesdays and move from 6 p.m. to 6:30.

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  1. Peter Hudkins says:

    My sheep would happy to volunter to mown under the solar panels.