New Andover board OKs fire/ambulance contract, mulls reappraisal

By Shawn Cunningham
© 2022 Telegraph Publishing LLC

The Andover Select Board on Monday — in its first meeting since the Town Meeting Day election — approved the emergency services contract with the Town of Chester that includes fire, ambulance and dispatch.

Three women now sit on the Andover Select Board, from left, Melissa Gates, Robin Trask and Maddy Bodin. Photos by Shawn Cunningham

With Richard Griswold, Melissa Gates and Robin Trask as newly minted members, the board discussed the contract in executive session but did not ask for changes. Previous board members had asked for a review by a lawyer, delaying the approval of the actual contract. But on Town Meeting Day, voters easily approved the town budget that includes the $55,754 annual fee charged by the Town of Chester for the services.

The arrangement became a sore subject between the towns when several Andover residents complained about the various aspects of the service as well as the yearly cost, which at the time was $33,000. After several months of back and forth with Chester, which at one point – withdrew its offer of services and Andover board members discussing starting a fire department — the towns finally agreed on the cost of services and the Andover board received the contract in January.

“We are pleased to enter into this contract with Andover and improve relationships with our neighboring communities,” Chester Town Manager Julie Hance told The Telegraph on Tuesday.

Listers say reappraisal on the horizon

Andover listers Leo and Francesca Salazar repeated the presentation they made to the then three-member Select Board on Feb. 14 when they said the tax rate is “out of whack” and that the State of Vermont will shortly notify the town that it needs to do a reappraisal.

Richard Griswold is one of three new members on the board

Fran Salazar told the board that since the town had done a reappraisal within the past five years, it would be able to conduct a “statistical” reappraisal, which relies on sampling of appraisals, that would cost around $36,000. A full appraisal would cost around $63,000 but even though the town gets around $5,000 per year from the state toward a reappraisal fund, Salazar said the town does not put money aside to match those funds. According to the town’s annual report, there is a bit more than $15,000 in the reappraisal fund. She asked that the board put money away for the fund in future budgets.

According to Fran Salazar, a statistical reappraisal could be started this summer and finished in 2023, but board members asked if the work could be postponed. Leo Salazar said that a letter notifying the town that a reappraisal must be done will be coming in June and that the town had some time before it had to begin.

Board member Gates moved to “push it out” into the future because the town had not included the work in this year’s budget and the rest of the board agreed. She also expressed hesitation of doing an appraisal at the height of the market, although spread across a larger town-wide grand list it would push the per hundred dollars of assessed value tax rate down. And if the market cools – with real estate prices dropping after a high reappraisal – the formula for equalizing state-wide education taxes would push rates down. Chester reappraised in 2008 and then the bottom fell out of the market in the recession that followed. Lower home prices raised the “common level of appraisal,” which compares assessed value to the market and is part of the tax rate formula. Consequently, for several years that lowered town taxpayers’ education tax rate compared to other towns in the same school district.

Road equipment worries and supply delays

Road Foreman Charlie Golden tells the board last year was the worst he’s seen for equipment breakdowns

Calling last year the worst year for equipment breakdowns that he has seen, Road Foreman Charlie Golden told the board that the town’s 10 wheel dump truck has been laid up with transmission problems for five weeks with no end in sight. He said the town has about half of the gravel it needs for the roads for mud season, but he isn’t sure how the town will get the rest. Golden said that  having someone else truck it in is an added expense and using smaller trucks will age them prematurely.

A smaller truck chassis has been ordered and the decision on what body to order for it was on the agenda for the board to decide. There were a lot of questions and discussion among the public attending including former Select Board members and an unsuccessful candidate from this year’s election.

At issue was whether to pay an additional $9,000 to put a snow plow wing on the new truck even though it’s smaller. There were arguments on both sides of the issue. Then board member Trask called the wing “a small price to pay,” and board member Maddy Bodin moved to accept the bid, which included the wing. The motion passed unanimously.


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  1. Raymond Makul says:

    The services are useless to those in western parts of Andover, unless you prefer to die before an ambulance arrives, or watch your house burn to the ground. Weston was once part of Andover. Perhaps the town line should be moved farther east.