Police and fire chiefs give updates on speeding and standardized address signage

Chester. Photo by Shawntae Stillwell

CHESTER, Vt. – The Nov. 1 meeting of the Chester Select Board served as a late-year check-in on budgets and departments and also included enthusiastic approval for the installation of a plaque commemorating former inn owner and town booster Jack Coleman. The plaque will be sited on the town green.

Chester police Chief Richard Cloud gave a departmental update, accompanied by big-eyed, brindled Dutch, the town’s police dog. “The radar signs are all up and running. We’ve had a lot of positive feedback,” said Chief Cloud, referring to the digital, radar-enabled speed limit signs placed along several of the town’s highways.

“Speeds are dropping,” said Cloud, “probably by approximately of ten miles per hour” as drivers are responding to the sign’s feedback – the signs turn green and thank drivers when their speeds drop below the limit. That “polite” feedback loop helps drivers choose to “do the right thing” according to Cloud.

“It’s a real success story,” said board member Dan Cote. “We can’t make enough hay out of [these signs].”

Chester fire chief Matt Wilson proposed a new town ordinance mandating standardized, 911-friendly address signage for all residences and businesses, and requested funding support for the project.

“One of our biggest issues that we have is finding where we’re going,” said Wilson. “There’s no sort of structure for how to mark your house…some people don’t mark their house at all or there’s some people that have a 200-yard-long driveway and they put numbers up on their house. That’s no good because we can’t see them.”

Instead, Wilson argued for a solution he says has been adopted by other towns in the region: standardized, reflective signage. These metal address signs, which look somewhat like vertical street signs, can be attached with brackets to mailbox supports or freestanding posts. Wilson estimated the project costs would include about $19,500 for the signs, $6,700 for brackets and “another couple thousand” for posts. The extra posts were needed, he explained, because not all residents’ mailboxes are directly in front of their homes or businesses.

Board members were receptive to Wilson’s goals but voiced some concerns about the price tag. The board decided to organize a more detailed set of options and costs, in writing, before taking any further action.

Town Manager David Pisha led board members through a summary of the current general fund budget and pointed out some areas of change. A startling-looking jump in personnel-related expenses – insurance and benefits – can be explained by some budget-category juggling per auditor advice. Starting this year, those expenses are broken down and distributed across their relevant departments instead of being lumped together elsewhere.

The town is also considering switching employee health insurance plans – from Blue Cross Blue Shield to MVP Health Care – eyeing potential savings on premiums in 2018. Insurance plan swaps like this are becoming routine. “We change health care pretty much every year,” conceded Select Board Chair Arne Jonynas. Compared to Blue Cross Blue Shield, MVP costs are about 9 percent lower in 2018.

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