Chester Select Board looks at status of current and future town properties

Chester Select Board meeting, Wednesday, May 15. Photo by Sharon Huntley

CHESTER, Vt. – The Chester Select Board Meeting Wednesday, May 15 dealt largely with decisions for current and future town properties including the Jeffrey Barn, restroom at the Town Information Booth, the Tomasso property, and Act 250 expenses relating to the future town gravel pit.

Lillian Willis, part of a committee charged with providing formal assessment on the Jeffrey Barn, gave an update for renovating the property, located on Route 103 just beyond the Stone Village, which is owned by the town. Estimated cost to repair the barn came in at $205,000, not including a new roof which would also need to be done. One issue the barn has is that it is right next to the road with very little parking potential. The committee has not been able to come up with any viable ideas for use, despite extensive effort to reach out to the community and other entities for suggestions for use. She is now turning to the Select Board to decide how to proceed.

Board member Ben Whalen said he can’t see a reason to make this a high priority item for the town. Jonynas made the point that the land is next to the town well and aquifer, another reason not to want to disturb that area.

Board member Heather Chase said, “I feel that we’re stewards of this property and this barn.”

After discussion it was suggested that Town Manager David Pisha and staff investigate possibilities to salvage, donate, or sell parts of the barn including offering it to Shelburne Museum or Billings Farm. The hollow brick silo that is attached to the barn might be important in its own right.

Chase added that for historical purposes the town should make sure to document the property before it is dismantled and memorialize the history and the building in some way.

The town has made an offer to purchase the Tomasso property. Jonynas wanted to clarify that this has just started the process on the way to get the public involved. This was a necessary first step to consider moving forward with the possibility for purchasing the property for the town. There will be a community assessment to follow that will involve fundraising, community input, and discussion of possible uses. This would also eventually have to go to a town vote.

The Select Board also discussed options for whether to connect the restroom in the Chester Town Information Booth to the town sewer. The town is looking at increased pumping costs, paying upwards of $3,000 dollars a year, versus the cost to connect to the town sewer, estimated as a one time cost of $20 – 25,000. Naomi Johnson from Dufresne Engineering will be looking at the options but no costs have been expended on this project yet. Chase suggested she was open to the idea but wanted more information on why the costs were so much and where’s the money coming from. Jonynas suggested it would come from the economic development fund, which covers the pumping costs now. The board will be gathering costs for different options and how funding will be accomplished before they proceed.

In anticipation of needing it as part of Act 250 approval, Pisha requested that noise and traffic study be approved for the site where the current water tank sits and where the gravel pit is proposed. Both studies have an anticipated cost of approximately $14,000.

Chase suggested that she would like to hear from Jim Goss, their expert counsel in the Act 250 process, before approving the studies.

Other board members suggested that delay in approving the studies would delay the process and that having Goss attend would add cost, in his hourly fee, to have him attend a meeting.

Chase countered, “Act 250 is a very complex process…I think for me, once a year, to have a conversation with the expert and to gather information is not too much to ask.” After further pushback from other board members, Chase continued “I’m getting upset about this because I want information and it’s slapped on the agenda late and I’m accused of holding up the process.”

The Select Board agreed that they would have Jim Goss write a summary of the process that has happened so far. What costs have been, where they are in the process, and where they go from here. Then they will have a special meeting to answer any additional questions for concerns.

The next Chester Select Board meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, June 5 at 6:30 p.m. at the Town Office.

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