Despite objection, Chester board refuses to remove road from list Community coalition hopes to build 'safe space' for youth in Chester

By Shawn Cunningham
© 2024 Telegraph Publishing LLC

Signing the annual certification of road mileage is usually a low-key, pro forma task in a select board’s first February agenda, but last Wednesday night a land owner who objects to the classification of an old road became increasingly agitated, raising his voice and insisting the board meet his demands.

Paul Bidgood holds up the addendum he calls 'garbage.' <small> Photos by Shawn Cunningham

Paul Bidgood holds up the addendum he calls ‘garbage.’ Photos by Shawn Cunningham

That certification informs the state of how many miles and what types of roads a town has, and is used for allocating funds from the state legislature.

Back on Jan. 3, Paul Bidgood, a Massachusetts attorney who owns land in the Smokeshire area, told the Chester Select Board that he believes the town had incorrectly put Bailey Hill Road on the town highway map in 2010 and he wants that corrected. He said that it was private property and should not be for public use. According to reports in the Rutland Herald, Bidgood has sued Cavendish and Chester in the past to maintain the road.

At that meeting, Bidgood also provided the town with a package of maps and other information in support of his claim and he urged board members to ensure that the road is not included in the annual certification, which he described as a pressing matter. Board chair Arne Jonynas responded that he was “…not looking at a time table, just looking to make sure we do our job correctly.”

Since then, the town has sent Bidgood’s package to its attorney, Jim Carroll, who tacked an addendum onto the mileage certificate saying that the town is looking into the claim and reserves the right to amend the certificate after it has reviewed the documentation.

But last Wednesday, Bidgood demanded that the board remove the addendum and file the certificate with the state without about a mile of Bailey Hill Road.

Bidgood reiterated his claim that the road was dropped by the town and is now owned by those whose land it crosses. He said his documents are clear, take about 15 minutes to read and that the board should read them and sign the certificate without including Bailey Hill Road. He noted that they would be signing under oath.

“Please understand, this (addendum) is a mockery … this is ridiculous, this is abhorrent to reasonable people’s expectation of resolving a situation,” said Bidgood, suggesting the board send the addendum to board member and state Rep. Heather Chase to ask the legislature under what authority the town can circumvent the legal requirement to file the certificate without removing the road in question.

“Who in their right mind would put private property on a public highway map?” asked Bidgood. “Please do not sign that tonight, please have Heather or someone else review (the addendum). It’s garbage.”

Saying that filing the certificate with the addendum was on the advice of Carroll, Jonynas asked for a motion to sign the certificate. In discussing the motion, board member Lee Gustafson addressed Bidgood.

“You’ve been looking at this for how many years, decades? We’ve had a couple of weeks. I don’t know you from Adam. I don’t know if I can trust you, but you have a vested interest in presenting your side. You have not given me the benefit of looking into this myself,” said Gustafson. “I need to know I understand both sides of the argument so I can make my own mind up and not have my arm twisted … because that’s honestly what if feels like. I’m happy to read the document, but contrary to your assertion that it takes 15 minutes to read, it takes a lot longer than that.”

The motion to sign was approved unanimously.

Community Coalition seek to create a safe social space for youth

Lauren Ingersoll of the Black River Area Community Coalition told the board that her organization is hoping to create a safe social space for young people to relax and explore their interests. She noted that in the past, Chester had such a space called “The Underground” where students hung out, played music and engaged with the arts.

Lauren Ingersoll explains BRACC's plans to the board

Lauren Ingersoll explains BRACC’s plans to the board

BRACC is an organization that works in several communities, including Chester, to address substance use issues facing youth.

Ingersoll noted that unlike The Underground of the past, music may not be the attraction for today’s youth. She said that in addition to finding a space for such a gathering place will be an issue, she is concerned to first find out what kind of interests young people would want to explore there. To find out, she is putting together a survey and is looking for ways to involve those young people in it.

Those interested in helping out can contact Ingersoll at

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