Chester Select Board hears plans to refurbish Town Hall

Chester. Photo by Shawntae Stillwell

CHESTER, Vt. – Chester Select Board held its regular meeting Wednesday, Oct. 4, 2017. The town of Chester has received a disbursement of funds distributed to member towns after the dissolution of the New Hampshire -Vermont Solid Project. When the New Hampshire-Vermont Solid Waste Project was terminated, a sum was left over after the establishment of a capital reserve fund. Participating towns are being compensated for operating losses.

Lillian Willis of the Historic Preservation Committee appeared before the board to describe tentative plans for refurbishing the Chester Town Hall building, the committee’s biggest project. She said she is looking for ideas and inspiration for low-cost, simple ways to make various repairs while preserving the historic features of the building. She would like to apply for a USDA grant similar to that for the work on the library. She said she has spoken with Tom Keefe, who prepared a conditions assessment, which will be used as a basis for the work. Keefe is available to help write the grant.

Willis mentioned numerous conditions needing attention. The roof slates will need to be replaced. She said they may be replaced with slates saved from the Academy building, but very old slates become porous and crack and replacement will be an ongoing task. She said she requested a bid.

Lillian Willis distributes material for town hall. Photo by Julia Purdy.

She urged people to visit the Ludlow Auditorium, which is a hall similar to Chester. She envisioned the Chester stage will be retained for uses in the future, including a full screen to show movies, and the kitchen should be made more functional.

Willis said that to show immediate progress on the town hall, the entryway could be spruced up by sanding and refinishing the floor, lighting, and power-washing the walls.

Julie Hance, the assistant town clerk, said that USDA makes grant-loans (35 percent grant to 65 percent loan). One of these is being used for the library. She recommended doing both the interior and exterior work in a single project and said that a loan amount of $200-250,000 would be doable. Historic Preservation grants such as used for the Academy building are also an option.

The Select Board commended the efforts of the Historic Preservation Committee. Dan Cote told Willis, “You’re a breath of fresh air” and offered support.

The Visioning Process item was touched on. The board had received a document from David Pisha that compares last year with this year, which will be useful as a “guiding document” for budget discussions. The discussion then digressed to budget matters. Cote suggested involving the committees as well as the department heads in the budget discussions. Pisha said the budget process should begin in November to get the “big picture.”

The members signed the USDA loan documents for the library work, a process that began in 2014. The loan is for $57,900 at 3.25APR. The next step is the actual closing.

Citizen Frank Bidwell spoke with concern about the confusion between old and new business when business is postponed to future meetings. There was much discussion about how to clarify the difference.

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