Chester Selectboard continues with upgrades to infrastructure

CHESTER, Vt. – The Chester Selectboard was updated on upcoming infrastructure projects; approved the renovations for several historical buildings; and continued efforts to address speeding at their recent Sept. 16 meeting.

The meeting began with a scoping presentation by VTrans concerning Route 103 Bridge 16, which spans the Williams River. That project will have construction beginning as early as spring 2021 and will take up to six months.

Town Manager Julie Hance updated the board on speed reduction efforts on several town streets. Radar strips are being placed on High and River streets to gather data. A portable sign that captures speed data will go to Andover Road, and Church Street will use existing data from that portable sign stationed there. Grafton Road will receive the portable sign after Andover Road data has been captured. The board agreed to capture data for two weeks. The reports will be presented at a future meeting. The board will then make decisions on speed reduction based on these reports.

Hance updated the board on the plaster repair needed at the Academy Building. Although she received the cost of $21,000 for sheet rocking the project, the Easement Committee of Preservation Trust will not approve that method of repair. Only two possible solutions remain: the plaster repair, which is estimated at $36,000, or a blue board with plaster veneer.

A 1772 Foundation Grant gives $10,000 for conservation easement through the Preservation Trust, but that could only be used for the original plaster, reducing the final cost to $26,000. Hance has not received final cost for the blue board with plaster veneer but suspects it will come in about the same. Either way, time constraints mean that the repair will happen next year in 2021. Hance will finalize costs and present them to the board.

The board also approved for Hance apply for a Historic Preservation Grant for $20,000 that will be used in the $60,000 repair to the roof on the west side of the Academy Building, the last repair needed on the building’s exterior. The remaining $40,000 comes from $30,000 that will be put in a grant fund for next year and $10,000 will be a historic facility line item. The grant will be submitted the first week of October.

The board agreed to proceed with the next step in the Yosemite building renovation process. The building needs to be “righted” to prevent it from leaning any further. That will involve replacing the beam among other fixes to make the building structurally sound. The $17,000 cost will come from historic building maintenance fund, which has $35,000.

The board approved for Hance to seek additional grant funding needed to complete the financing on a Popple Dungeon bridge project. Costs have increased to $900,000 but secured financing stands at $750,000. Hance will submit requests to two different grants, including a transportation enhancement grant in December. If both requests are denied, which according to Hance was unlikely, she would return to the board to discuss options.

The sound equipment upgrade for the second floor of the Chester Town Office building will move forward with Atomic Pro Sound, after efforts to receive additional bids came up empty. The bid of $10,200 was approved. Hance will apply for Local Government Emergency Relief Grant, since the need for an improved sound system is Covid-related.

Hance was pleased to report that the town has collected 94% of taxes due, a number similar to last year. There had been concern that income and business stresses due to the coronavirus pandemic would severely impact tax payments.

Ballots will be sent out by the state to all Chester voters in the next week. Voters can either mail in their ballot, drop into a provided drop-box at the Town Office, or vote in person Nov. 3. The town is asking that everyone who chooses to vote in-person, bring their mailed ballot with them owing to a limited number of ballots being provided to the town. More voting and balloting information will be discussed in upcoming meetings.

The next Chester Selectboard meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, Oct. 7 at 6 p.m., either in-person on the second floor of the Town Hall or via Zoom.

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