Chester reviews DOI and greenhouse agreement

CHESTER, Vt. – The Dec. 21 Chester Selectboard meeting was spent discussing the newly drafted license agreement between the town and the Chester Community Greenhouse and Garden club, the drafted Chester Declaration of Inclusion, the remaining part of the 2023 general fund budget review, and other topics.

While reviewing the new license agreement for the community greenhouse and garden that had been drafted by the town attorney, the members of the board looked for any questions they may have had. There were a few spots in the agreement that the board questioned, pertaining to insurance for the club, the payment and accessibility of utilities, the different clauses relating to termination of the agreement, and other minor topics. The club had a member present to represent the group, they were asked if the club had any questions or responses to the license agreement. The member stated that the club was waiting to show their attorney the agreement until the selectboard finalized the document on their end. The selectboard stated they would be reaching out to their attorney on the questions they had and would forward the club both the questions asked and the answers received.

The board then moved to the topic of the drafted declaration of inclusion for the town. The board had two guest speakers who have helped other towns adopt such declarations talk over Zoom, Al Wakefield and Bob Harnish. There was discussion among the board about what happens after the declaration is accepted. The possibility of a committee on the matter was suggested, as well as the idea of Town Manager Julie Hance slowly reviewing town policies to look for biases. Neither of these were stated as concrete ideas, more as possibilities. There was a lengthy discussion on the wording of the declaration among the board. During this, board member Heather Chase made a motion to accept the declaration as it was previously read by Chair Arunas Jonynas and as it reads here – “Recognizing that diversity strengthens and enriches a community, the Town of Chester condemns all forms of discrimination and bigotry. We strongly commit ourselves and our institutions to the fair and equal treatment of everyone – including members of traditionally marginalized groups – who lives or works in, or passes through our community.

“We strive to ensure that all of our plans, policies, programs, procedures, statements, and actions reflect these commitments and support a community in which all persons feel welcome and safe to express their opinions and engage in the community.”

Leigh Dakin seconded the motion. Member Lee Gustafson made a motion to amend the declaration by adding, “we also commit ourselves to be inclusive and protective of all people, from the elderly to those with disabilities, physical, mental, or otherwise, and the preborn,” to the end of the first paragraph. The amendment was not seconded and did not pass. Member Ben Whalen then made a motion to amend the declaration by ending the first paragraph after the word “everyone.” Gustafson seconded this motion, but it did not pass. The board then voted on the declaration as it stood and it passed 3-2. Later in the meeting a citizen spoke to the board and stated they believed that the declaration should have been given as an article for the public to vote on at the town meeting in March.

The board then went on to finish the general fund budget review from the previous meeting. Hance ran the board through the remainder of the budget. The board discussed the use of ARPA funds on one time expenses caused by the pandemic and inflation. The board agreed that the money should be used to alleviate the burden on the taxpayer as best as it can. It was mentioned by Hance that the proposed use of the ARPA funds would still leave a large portion of the funds to be decided on later.

The board discussed a number of grants they had received, such as one to help repair the windows in the Yosemite Fire House on Depot Street in Chester. The board also stated the town was to receive funding to replace any remaining lead water lines still in the town.

Hance mentioned that there will be a discussion on the creation of a Police Advisory Committee at the second selectboard meeting in January. After questions from the board on the purpose of this committee, it was explained that they will act as a liaison between the public and the police department, and that the committee would have no oversight over the department.

The next meeting will be on Jan. 4 at 6:30 p.m. in the Chester Town Hall.

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