Chester continues full steam ahead on curbing speeding

CHESTER, Vt. – The Chester Selectboard recapped the town’s ongoing efforts on speeding, kept hope alive on the Church Street sidewalk project, and began their review of the 2021 budget at their Oct. 21 meeting.

Speed studies, which are coordinated with the Regional Planning Commission, have been completed on River and High streets. The speed strips used on those roads will be moved to Andover Road to complete the speed study that had been started there but was stopped after three days because of a broken portable radar sign.

Chester resident Ginger Roper suggested the strips be placed on a few key trouble spots on Andover Road specifically between Route 11 and Potash Brook Road where there’s a curve and then another stretch between Potash Brook Road and Andover village.

Board Chair Arne Jonynas suggested that Town Manager Julie Hance reach out to Andover to see if they might address the speeding issue from their end, since a stretch of that road is a state highway, allowing for a 50 mph limit, between Andover village and the Chester town line.

Hance said that Police Chief Rick Cloud has increased the amount of time all officers will be running radar, allocating one to two hours per person per shift in an effort to deter speeding. They will be focusing their efforts on “key areas around town.”

Board member Leigh Dakin told the board she had heard from several Church Street residents who expressed disappointment that the sidewalk project was not moving forward and said she hoped they might consider it in the future. At the last board meeting, the board reviewed the scoping study and the decision was made not to move forward with the $460,000 project due to budget concerns.

Jonynas said that in future if finances are looking a little better that it is a worthy goal for the town to have a sidewalk on that loop, that it would be used by a lot of people, and might make the area a lot safer, as well as helping to slow down traffic.

The board approved for Hance to apply for a Grants in Aid program for stone line ditching and culvert upsizing on Hall Road. The program is coordinated through Regional Planning but in cooperation with VTrans and the Clean Water Act. Hance explained that when you agree to take funding for section of road, you are required to bring entire road up to Clean Water Act standards, which can be difficult. She suggested that Hall Road would be a “good test road” to try out some of the new measures they’re asking for. The total project cost is $28,325 but the town’s 20% match requirement can be done with “in kind” services so there is no cost outlay for the town.

Hance updated the board on the health insurance benefit package review she has been conducting, comparing the Chester town employee benefit package with other municipalities to see if they were in line. Chester provides 100% health coverage for employees.

Hance provided extensive comparative information for the board’s review and summarized the information, saying that changing plans to have employees pick up some of the cost would save only about $10,000 and suggested that it was not worth “upsetting the apple cart.” She added that the benefit instills longevity in their staff and saves money in the long run since turnover is very expensive. The board agreed there was no need to change the benefits for both “financial and philosophical reasons.”

The board began review of the 2021 general fund budget, which will be broken up over the course of several meetings. Sections reviewed were for the Selectboard, Town Manager, Administration, Listers, Planning and Zoning, Town Hall, and Revitalization of Historic Buildings. The board will cover the 2021 budget for all Public Safety divisions during the Nov. 4 meeting.

Hance provided an update on the public safety building saying that concrete work has begun and that by mid-November, the steel framing is expected to be up. Final design work on the town garage has also begun so that all permitting will be in place to start first thing in the spring.

The next Chester Selectboard meeting will be Wednesday, Nov. 4 at 6 p.m. in person at the Town Hall and remotely via Zoom.

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