CHESTER, Vt. – The EMS informational meeting took place in the second floor of the newly renovated Chester Town Hall Wednesday, Oct. 23 in front of a full house of Chester residents as committee member Lee Gustafson walked through the design and costs for a proposed Emergency Services project that includes building a new facility to house Fire, Ambulance, and Police services and renovating the existing town garage for sole use by the Highway Department. Chester citizens are being asked to vote on a 30-year bond of $4.78 million to approve the project Tuesday, Nov. 5.
Gustafson carefully walked through the project by first establishing the need for improvements based on current state regulation violations. He then outlined the proposed design of the project; looking at the new building, as well as renovations on the existing town garage and the costs for each. The total came to $4.78 million with a tax impact that could be as high as $0.075 per 100,000 valuation for each Chester property. Gustafson also showed a graph that indicated how the costs would impact the town budget over time, starting out with just a $0.02 impact in the first years and peaking at $0.075 in approximately 2024 until it begins to lessen in subsequent years as the bond was paid down.
Despite the explanations, several audience members were looking for a clear dollars and cents impact on their tax bill as well as total overall cost for the project over the 30-year length of the bond.
One Chester resident said that she couldn’t argue that the building was beautiful and the reasons behind it were great but that the cost fell on just 3,154 townspeople or just 521 households in Chester. She asked what this project was going to do to her tax bill.
Town Manager David Pisha answered that during a peak impact of $0.075 that would increase a tax bill by $150 on a $200,000 home. Pisha also stated that the overall budget can change for a variety of reasons and later added that overall, the budget could be less or overall the budget could be more. “This is just a facet of a bigger picture,” he said.
A second homeowner in audience said, “This project to many of us is very misunderstood…People that I do know really don’t understand the finances of it.” He suggested that the committee put together a detailed explanation outlining what town’s currently finances are, the town’s bond rating, loan principle, loan interest, and cost per family. “I believe people will vote with their pocketbook, and they need more information,” he said.
Pisha agreed that he could put the information on paper and circulate it by the next meeting, which is scheduled for Nov. 4, the day before the bond vote.
It was also suggested that the committee outline the state violations that have been cited concerning the existing buildings so that citizens better understand the need for the new building and proposed renovation. Gustafson agreed that was a good idea.
Other concerns arose about the lack of sustainable heating for the buildings. Kevin Racek of Centerline Architects said that the infrastructure of the buildings were fitted to add solar heating in future phases but currently the building is slated to be heated with gas heat. The comment was made that they need to look at energy efficiency.
Gustafson explained that the project was at 50% of design phase and that changes can be made to address some of those concerns once the bond is passed. When asked if costs could go up afterward, Gustafson explained that cost of project would stay the same because they would work within same budget. He also said that there are contingency dollars built into the costs presented.
Racek of Centerline Architects added that they would make sure that all design changes would fall under the $4.78 million amount as they make adjustments to the design and components based on further input.
The final informational meeting is Nov. 4 at 6 p.m. at Chester Town Hall. The bond vote for the town is Tuesday, Nov. 5.