Chester Selectboard discuss upcoming grants, retail cannabis

CHESTER, Vt. – The Chester Selectboard heard of several upcoming possible grants for projects in town during their Wednesday, Nov. 3 meeting, along with an overall healthy financial review from this year, as they begin the budget process for next year. Retail cannabis will return as a topic for discussion in future agendas.

Town Manager Julie Hance received approval from the board to apply for a $24,894 Bylaw Modernization Grant. This new grant, developed by the Agency of Commerce and Community Development, would provide funds for a regional planning group to work with Chester’s Planning Commission, with a focus on the village area and reviewing housing needs as well as zoning restrictions. The project will go out to bid and will be awarded in the winter with work beginning in the spring. The town will provide a $2,766 match for a total project cost of $27,660. Hance later added that parking would also be looked at as part of this project.

Yosemite Firehouse drawings are almost complete for the old firehouse restoration project. Hance said the town will apply for a Paul Bruhn Grant for window and door restoration, which is the last exterior work that needs to be done other than painting. The grant could potentially cover all of the costs for the windows and door. That would completely button up the Yosemite Firehouse building from outside exposure.

Hance updated the board on the town’s financial review, saying they were holding steady and looking good, largely due to ongoing efforts by department heads to keep costs down. She also said revenue was coming in a little better than expected. A few tax sales are slated in January for the most egregious tax delinquencies.

The Brookside Bridge has been delayed due to contractors hitting ledge when they were installing the piles. Instead, they’ll need to use blocks. Stream alteration analysis was done to make sure there would be no issues with the river flow due to the change.

Academy Building slate has been delivered for the roof replacement, which will likely take place in the spring.

The issue of cannabis retail sales will once again become an agenda item for the board to discuss in the coming months. According to Board Chair Arne Jonynas, it is getting to the point where Chester needs to decide as a town the direction they want to go in.

He said there were citizens last year that wanted the issue on the town meeting vote, but it was tabled because there was very little information last year.

Hance said the Cannabis Control Board is starting to narrow down their recommendations and how it’s all going to work. She said they can put it on the agenda to provide an update.

The board went into executive session in response to a petition from the Chester Police Department to form a collective bargaining agreement. When they emerged, the board announced they were agreeing to Option 2. They agreed to a “consent election,” where the town would agree that a proposed bargaining unit, which is subsequently approved by vote, is appropriate to lead the bargaining.

Option 1, which would have recognized the New England Police Benevolent Association as Chester Police Department’s exclusive bargaining representative, was not selected.

The next Chester Selectboard meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, Nov. 17 at 6 p.m. at the Chester Town Office or via Zoom.

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