CHESTER, Vt. – The Chester Select Board called a special meeting Wednesday, May 29 primarily to move the process forward on their Act 250 permit for the small gravel extraction pit being proposed in the town. As part of the permitting process, the Board was looking for approval for a Noise and Traffic Study to be done with an estimated cost of approximately $14,000.
During the last Select Board meeting May 15, questions arose from Board Member Heather Chase concerning the Act 250 process on the gravel project to date, what had happened so far, and the costs incurred. The Board agreed that they would have attorney Jim Goss, their expert counsel on the Act 250 process, write a summary to address those concerns and get a recommendation of where they go from here.
The Chester Select Board has since received a communication presumably answering those questions and which included the recommendation that the board proceed with a traffic study and a sound study for the Act 250 permit application. Town Manager David Pisha summarized the recommendation, saying that submitting the application without the study would be a waste of time.
Costs spent so far on the project have totaled approximately $35,000 and with the proposed Noise and Traffic Study would approach $50,000, already significantly higher than the initial estimate.
As the Board discussed approval of the study, it was clear that Chase still had some concerns about the budget and the Act 250 process that had not yet been answered by the received communication from Goss.
Chester Public Works Director Graham Kennedy spoke from the floor about the cost and expense that the Public Works Department has spent on gravel this past year since they had depleted their own stores and had to truck in additional sand this year. Despite additional costs mounting for the gravel project, “It’s going to save the town huge money,” he said.
Chase responded that she was not challenging the idea but that she needed to have a clear understanding of costs, as well as savings, before going before the townspeople for additional money.
Board Chair Arne Jonynas responded to concerns about the cost with a suggestion to use a fund that had been established with left over FEMA funds. Jonynas explained that money had been paid to Chester for disaster projects by FEMA at an assumed cost. Once work was accomplished for less, the costs difference, totaling approximately $75,000, had accumulated and were “hidden away.”
Stipulation for the funds was that they be used for public works or something specifically related to public works. There is also a possibility that if spent, FEMA still has two years to audit the funds, and that the money might need to be paid back.
Before approving the Noise and Traffic study, Chase wanted an answer to a question she had sent via email to the rest of the Board and to counsel. Citing the need to go into executive session to discuss attorney client privileged information, the Board voted to go into executive session. After emerging from executive session, the board approved to have the Noise and Traffic Study done.
The next Chester Select Board meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, June 5 at 6:30 p.m. at the Chester Town Office.