Chester Selectboard hears updates from Police Dept. and OVRCC

CHESTER, Vt. – At the Oct. 3 meeting of the Chester Selectboard, the board heard department updates from Chief Richard Cloud of the Police Department and a presentation from Carol Lighthall from the Okemo Valley Regional Chamber of Commerce.

Chief Cloud started his update by comparing statistics from 2017’s total fines, tickets, etc. with the current year as far as Sept. 30. In 2017, there were a total of 216 speeding warnings and 308 tickets. Currently in 2018, there have been 122 warnings and 371 tickets. Cloud explained that the warnings were down because of the installation of the radar speed signs as traffic enters town. The signs act as a warning, and if they are disregarded, that leads to tickets. He also mentioned that the public has responded positively to the signs, and he has noticed traffic slowing down.

Signs have also been requested around North Street and both ends of Church Street. Cloud said the Police Department aims to buy one radar sign a year, as each one costs $4,000.

The Police Department has worked on 846 cases so far this year. Burglaries have doubled, thefts from cars have also gone up, and false alarms have also gone up this year. With the rise of burglary cases, more residents and businesses are installing alarm systems, and many of the false alarms happen early after installation as people are getting used to them.

Perhaps the most intriguing update Cloud shared with the board was K-9 Dutch who has been called for service 26 times this year. Fifteen of those cases have been drug searches. His biggest case involved uncovering 246 bags of heroin. Dutch has also been involved in four missing person cases, and has aided in presentations to kids and seniors. “He’s another tool in the tool box,” Cloud explained.

“And a cute one,” Vice Chair Heather Chase commented. “[He’s] a good ambassador, don’t you think?”

Dutch recently competed in an Iron Dog competition and was the fastest K-9 there, completing a 100-yard dash in 4.3 seconds. He can also identify seven different drugs.

Lastly, Cloud addressed that the Police Department is struggling to fill part time officer positions.

Carol Lighthall, executive director of Okemo Valley Chamber of Commerce, presented after Chief Cloud. Lighthall has been the executive director of the Chamber for about three months to date. She’s used the time to meet with the community to hear their input and ideas. She praised Town Manager David Pisha as a “good advocate for the community,” and stressed the importance of the regional community to the Chamber.

She detailed two Chamber committees where she’d like to see members from around the region participate. One is the member committee, which would discuss membership to the chamber, including opening the chamber to small businesses “to help them get their start,” and to individuals such as second homeowners and retired folk so they have “more sets of hands.”

The second is a marketing committee that would work on advertising, promotion, the website, and events.

Board member Dan Cote praised the efforts of the Chamber to be inclusive to the whole region. Lighthall replied, “The best thing we can offer visitors is choice and options.”

The board members were also interested in how Vail closing on the Okemo Mountain Resort purchase last week will impact the Chamber. Lighthall admitted that there hasn’t been much communication from Vail yet, but she had been communicating with Stowe who underwent the Vail purchase last year. Stowe shared positive feedback and that there has been collaboration.

The Chester Selectboard also discussed updates to the Town Garage project, which will have a full presentation ready before the March 2019 Town Meeting. Pisha also asked the Selectboard to give him feedback on the Visioning Process and whether there are improvements to make it run smoother. Ideas included a breakdown of the costs of the total project and how much the town will pay for it, as well as highlighting the economic or future benefit to the town.

The next Chester Selectboard meeting will take place Wednesday, Oct. 17 at 6:30 p.m. in the Chester Town Hall.

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