CHESTER, Vt. – The Chester Selectboard had their first remote meeting via Zoom Wednesday, April 1 starting at 6 p.m. with Arne Jonynas and Town Manager Julie Hance participating from the Town Office while looping in other board members to participate from their homes. Several Chester citizens also tuned in remotely to view the meeting live through a link provided on the town website. Citizens are also able to also view a recording of the meeting on SAPA TV from their website.
The board formally announced the appointment of Julie Hance as the new Chester town manager, offering her a one-year contract. The board had started the negotiation process with an outside candidate, but those were halted partly due to COVID-19 challenges as well as an unresolved negotiation process. Hance was recently promoted to assistant town manager prior to the recent retirement of long-time Town Manager David Pisha and has worked for in Chester town government for approximately 15 years.
“With her experience and her knowledge of the town, I think we’re going to be well served,” Jonynas said. He also acknowledged that her expertise and deep knowledge of the town would be especially helpful “during the times we’re in right now,” referencing the pandemic.
All board members echoed their support of Hance’s appointment and Jonynas said that many townspeople had reached out to him to express their support and appreciation of their choice. New board member Jeff Holden also said the town department heads also were in favor of the choice.
The town office is not making any additional hires with the whole office shifting their responsibilities to cover necessary duties.
Several other housekeeping items were also decided. The Vermont Journal was selected as the paper of record for the town of Chester; Amy O’Brien was named the secretary of the Selectboard; and Robert Nied was appointed as Whiting Library Trustee Board.
Hance provided an update on COVID-19 information and changes. According to her report, state updates, labor law information, as well as new business program information is being uploaded to the Chester Town Office website regularly.
The town office is still conducting the town business, but the office is closed to the public. Police, fire, and ambulance are still performing all necessary duties.
Water and sewer bills have been sent out normally but will waive any fees and interest if requested.
Hance has asked that all departments approve “essential spending only.” Long-term, Hance talked of bringing the town back to a “zero-based budget” and to rethink the budget, doing things differently and thinking outside the box to realize budget cuts moving forward.
Board member Heather Chase praised Hance for addressing the budget “straight on.”
Jonynas said that the town would continue to look at the budget and look for ways to fiscally help the town recover after the pandemic crisis had passed. Jonynas also expressed his appreciation and pride in the town’s reaction and acceptance to the many out-of-state visitors and second homeowners in the area.
The next Selectboard meeting will again be done remotely on Zoom Wednesday, April 15 at 6 p.m. There will be a link to the meeting on the town’s website page prior to the meeting at www.chestervt.gov.