Chester board gets water/wastewater update, approves coin drops

By Shawn Cunningham
© 2024 Telegraph Publishing LLC

Engineer Naomi Johnson of Dufresne Group updated the Chester Select Board last Wednesday on several town water and sewer projects that have been completed or are nearing completion. These include an “asset management plan” for the town’s wastewater system, an inventory of the water system to find lead pipes and the results of a site search for a secondary well.

Engineer Naomi Johnson updates the board on water and sewer projects. Telegraph file photo

The wastewater plan, developed after surveys of the system – including video – over the past two years, will be used to identify parts of the system that are problematic or to prioritize repairs and replacements. The inventory concluded that there are no lead pipes in the water system. There are some galvanized pipes in the system that could have absorbed lead if they were downstream from lead pipes, but those would be customer-owned connections that are not the responsibility of the town.

Finally, the town has completed its search for a secondary well site to support the current well — the Jeffrey well on Route 103 North —  if there is a problem. Several sites were considered and a test well was drilled on one, but in the end, the recommendation is to drill the secondary well at the same place as the current well.

Board member Tim Roper asked if that didn’t open the town up to losing both sites if that aquifer was contaminated. Water Superintendent Jeff Holden said that was unlikely and that his immediate concern was having a secondary well that could take over if there was a problem with the current pumping station. Holden and Johnson explained that finding a secondary site with enough capacity is complicated by the need for it to be near enough to the water system to connect without a lot of new piping and in an area where a 200-foot safety zone could be established.

Coin drops, ancient roads, phone alerts and grants

Two veterans organizations – the Chester American Legion and Ruck Up – requested permission to conduct coin drops on Route 103 south near Marshall Road. In the past, the board limited the number of such collections to two per year in an effort to balance the fundraising needs of some organizations with the traffic disruption and inconvenience they can cause.

As in the past few years, Ruck Up requested one coin drop while the legion has asked for two. While Select Board Chair Arne Jonynas thought that the limit could be reconsidered after warning it on a future agenda, Roper and fellow board member Peter Hudkins said they were less enthusiastic about changing it. The board did agree to one coin drop each for the two organizations.

Town Manager Julie Hance explains the grants that the town has been awarded. Courtesy SAPA TV

During public comment portion, Paul Bidgood – a Massachusetts resident who owns property in the Smokeshire area – asked the board for a status update on his request to have Bailey Hill Road recognized as private property rather than a Class 4 road.  Jonynas told him that it was still in the hands of the town attorney and that it may require a site visit.

The Chester Conservation Committee had met that Monday to begin identifying all of Chester’s Class 4 roads and trails with an eye toward making them more available for public recreation. Class 4 roads are old rights of way that are no longer maintained but remain town property. Chester currently has nearly 17 miles of such roads.

Under old business Town Manager Julie Hance told the board that town staff have negotiated a contract with a company called Catalyst for a phone alert system that could notify the public of emergencies and situations like road, water or sewer repairs. Normally, that service costs $7,000 per year, but the town negotiated a four-year contract at $3,600 per year. The next step is to build a database of residents’ landline and cellphone numbers. Hance said that could also include second homeowners who might want to keep up with what’s going on in town.

Hance also told the board that Chester has received $24,000 in grants from the Vermont Community Foundation to institute a Civilian Emergency Response Team to free fire and police from routine tasks like road closings during emergencies. The funds will be used to purchase of a public address system, a projector, screen and tents for use at the annual National Night Out and other events. She also said that she is applying for federal funding for the community health initiative that would partner the town’s ambulance service with Springfield Hospital. Hance said she will find out if the funding would also cover the $350,000 cost of the new ambulance.

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