Chester Selectboard begins 2019 session with historic milestone

Chester Selectboard. Photo by Sharon Huntley

CHESTER, Vt. – The Chester Selectboard Wednesday, March 6, opened their organizational meeting welcoming Leigh Dakin to the board. Dakin easily won as a write-in candidate against Scott Blair in the recent town election. She joins Arne Jonynas, Heather Chase, Ben Walen, and Lee Gustafson. The addition of Dakin, along with board member Heather Chase, makes this the first time two women have served on the Chester Selectboard together. Chase acknowledged the new milestone saying “There’s never been two simultaneously, and I just think that that’s really cool.”

Dakin had previously served nine years on the board and at the time was the first woman to serve. This newest appointment makes her the fifth woman on the board. Chase explained that makes Dakin “the first and the fifth.”

The board set about their organizational tasks confirming their meetings would continue on the first and third Wednesday of the month, at 6:30 p.m. at Chester Town Office and set about re-electing Arne Jonynas as chairman, and Heather Chase as vice chair. Ben Walen is the newly appointed board clerk. They also ran through town posts and confirmed the list of appointees.

Chase suggested to the board that she would like to start reviewing their current policies, specifically conflict of interest policies among employees, and policy and procedures for bidding on projects. The board agreed with executive assistant Julie Hance’s suggestion they go through all the policies this year. Hance will gather policies in the coming weeks and provide them to the board to prioritize for review.

Discussion turned to the new cellular transmission tower that was built by VELCO to replace the old tower that could no longer accommodate any additional antennas. All carriers had now been moved to the new tower, U.S. Cellular having been the last and Sprint having backed out of the location. Town Manager David Pisha agreed to contact VELCO to have the old tower removed.

American Legion Post #67 Member Jeff Holden updated the board on their plans for their 4th of July celebration. According to Holden, the parade had been eliminated from their plans since they couldn’t get a permit from the state. Fireworks for Friday, July 5 had been confirmed with a field day scheduled for Saturday, July 6. All events would focus around their 7.5-acre field they purchased next to their building and be community and family focused.

“We want to be more family oriented because a lot of younger veterans that have families, they’re not joining the American Legion as readily as we would like them to. And we want to show them more community and more family oriented events,” he said.

Holden said that other than the fireworks, nothing concrete was confirmed but they were considering horse pulls, a couple bands, bouncy houses for the kids, and maybe some clowns. He said the Legion was open to suggestions. Board member Ben Walen suggested perhaps a “touch-a-truck” event, with fire and military trucks on display. Holden agreed with that suggestion and acknowledged that was another option that had been discussed. He told the board he would continue to update them on the planning progress.

Jonynas praised their efforts saying, “American Legion has been a great part of this town for all the years that I’ve remembered being here.” He continued, “Just adding that field has been a great benefit to the town.”

Hoping to become the Chester town clerk when Deborah Aldrich retires, assistant town clerk Amie O’Brien told the board of her plans to attend a Municipal Town Clerk training program. The program, an intensive weeklong program runs for three consecutive years, and is offered by the New England Municipal Clerks Institute and Academy at Plymouth University. O’Brien would become a certified municipal clerk after the three weeks, over three years.

O’Brien has secured an $850 scholarship for each year of the $925 program but was looking to the town to pledge an additional $75 each year as well as mileage expenses and to cover two meals. She also needed a letter signed from the Board Chair, all which the board approved.

Chase praised her efforts. “Succession planning is really important. Great that we’re doing that and you’re getting the training you need,” she said.

The meeting closed with a discussion about ways to address the wasp problem in the Chester Town Hall. Julie Hance confirmed that the wasps will be sprayed early in the spring but would be addressed more thoroughly when a renovation begins on the Town Hall this spring. Repairs are scheduled for the roof, cupola, interior of the upstairs hall, and possible kitchen work. Construction is scheduled to begin in the spring and should be finished by summer.

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