Chester July 2 meeting sets tax rate

CHESTER, Vt. – The Chester Selectboard set the tax rate at their special meeting Tuesday, July 2 at the lower level of the town office.

The municipal tax rate for Chester for this year has been set for 0.7403 per $100 property value, up just shy of a penny from last year’s municipal rate of 0.7304. Municipal tax rate is based on the budget and including any voted articles from town meeting.

Education rate increased for non-residents up 3 cents, only up 0.25 cent for residents. The town no longer controls any aspect of the educational budget but is simply assigned their tax rate based on the district school budget.

The two combined result in a total non-resident rate of 2.0990 and resident rate or 1.9626 per $100 assessed value. Last year, resident rate was 1.9493, which translates into a change of an increase of approximately 0.0133.

After a visit from the Agency of Transportation May 20 to look at the Route 103 area near the entrance of Green Mountain Union High School, the town received a document with an assessment of their visit, which also contained the contact information for requesting an official traffic and speeding study to be done.

This request for the study, which would not have any cost, would be the first step to requesting a speed reduction in that area. The Selectboard agreed that Chester Town Manager David Pisha send the letter to request moving forward with official speed and traffic study.

Pat Budnick, owner of Motel in the Meadow, requested use of town land across from the motel for parking for an upcoming Chocolate, Cheese and Chili Fest happening Monday, Aug. 5, from 5-8 p.m. Neighborhood Connections from Londonderry asked Budnick if she would host the festival, which was traditionally held at the Landgrove Inn.

The town owns the property, “the old McNally property,” that sits across from the motel on Route 11. The Selectboard agreed to allow parking on the property and thanked Budnick for all she does for the town, including the successful Music in the Meadow event held June 29, which broke both attendance and fundraising records for cancer research. Chester vendors Stone Hearth Inn, Southern Pie Co., and Free Range Restaurant will also be vendors at the event.

The Selectboard once again revisited options for sewer hook up at the information booth in downtown Chester. Chester’s Water Superintendent Jeff Holden attended to discuss a more affordable option, suggesting that a one-pump station, built on a rail system for easy maintenance, would be sufficient and more affordable. The town received recommendations from the Dufresne Group last month with a minimum price tag spanning from $15,000 to $25,000 for gravity-fed system that hooks into the town sewer either at the street or hooking into the Academy building, as well as a two-pump pumping station.

Of ongoing concern is the welfare of a large maple tree, estimated to be 60-80 years old that blocks a direct line to the sewer. Discussion centered on whether drilling horizontally through the tree roots might provide access and spare the overall health of the tree. Board Chair Arne Jonynas was concerned the tree may be negatively impacted regardless of their decision.

Ben Whalen asked for an estimate for Holden’s recommended system. The Selectboard will further discuss options in upcoming meetings and have scheduled a tour of the location.

Board member Lee Gustafson reported on a recent meeting he had with the Springfield Town Manager concerning changes at the Springfield Transfer Station. Chester contributes $35,000 per year to the transfer station for access to their facility. Recent changes now demand that residents who use the transfer station purchase a $25 recycling sticker, and there will be a punch card added to dispose of each bag of garbage. Overall, the board is happy with the arrangement but questioned the equity of other small towns that use the facility by purchasing the sticker, yet their town does not contribute to the Springfield Transfer station.

Solid Waste district representative Derek Suursoo spoke from the floor, saying he liked the solution since it puts costs on the users. Still, he admits the inequity between Chester paying for the service versus the other towns “chafes.”

The Selectboard agreed and discussed ways the transfer station might remedy that inequity in the future, with Jonynas saying, “It comes down to being fair, transparent, and equitable.”

Gustafson updated the Selectboard on a charging station project his company had bid on, confirming that he withdrew his bid on the project earlier that day. According to Gustafson, Town Attorney Jim Carroll advised that it was not a good idea for people serving on the Selectboard or in a town position of authority to submit bids to the town. “I want to avoid anything that smacks of favoritism. It’s the right thing to do.” He said that in retrospect, he wouldn’t have submitted the bid at all but said it was worth having the discussion so that the Selectboard is all on the same page moving forward.

The next Chester Selectboard meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, July 17 at 6:30 p.m. on the first floor of the Town Hall.

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