Chester Selectboard works on policy language, revives old business item

CHESTER, Vt. – The Chester Selectboard continued grappling with a proposed conflict of interest policy for officials elected or appointed to the Town Selectboard, Planning Commission or Development Review Board.

Also reviewed at a recent special meeting were the findings linked to the discontinuance of the last 800 feet of Quarry Road, as well as a proposal from Naomi Johnson of the Dufresne Group on the water project in town.

While Selectboard Clerk Heather Chase was concerned about the use of the term “bias” in the conflict of interest policy, as it may be somewhat subjective, she also expressed worry over the heading for Article 10 entitled “Enforcement,” as the board is not authorized to actually enforce any part of the policy.

Both Selectboard Chairman John DeBenedetti and Selectman Ben Whalen offered words of caution against deviations from the language found in the model policy, which was developed by attorneys affiliated with the Vermont League of Cities and Towns.

“Let’s be careful about how much we add to it (the model policy) so it’s not something that hurts our abilities to function in the end,” said Whalen.

It was suggested to change “Enforcement” to “Corrective Actions” and gain the opinion of Garrett Baxter, an attorney from the Vermont League of Cities and Towns, on the inclusion of the term “bias.”

In a 3 to 1 vote, the last 800 feet of Quarry Road was ordered discontinued and given to the landowner, but not without serious consideration by the board.

Selectboard Vice Chairman Arne Jonynas raised an issue concerning Class III and Class IV roads in the town that are gated, yet still belong to the town. He also urged the board to consider how the future of the town could be put into jeopardy with the loss of these and other roads.

“I see this happening all over town: huge parcels of land being bought-up by single landowners, ‘no trespassing’ signs being put up, land being put into land use, which we support with our taxes, and now we can’t even gain access to the land, whether it’s on a town road that’s not going to be in existence anymore or whether it’s just the land in general,” said an impassioned Jonynas.

The board is going to look at some of these roads that dead-end at single homes.

During a presentation to the board, Johnson revealed that the water project is coming in under budget, and proposed the remaining funds be used to install water mains on Coach Road and perform work on the existing well house.

“Coach Road was a project that we had identified as the highest priority in the next phase of water improvements,” said Johnson, who also said there would be significant renovations at the well house, including replacing the 35-year-old motor control center.

The board gave the go-ahead for the project to proceed.

Naomi Johnson of the Dufresne Group presents the Board with options for the water main project, which is coming in under budget. Photo by Jennifer Jones.
Naomi Johnson of the Dufresne Group presents the Board with options for the water main project, which is coming in under budget. Photo by Jennifer Jones.

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