July 4 fireworks approved, Fall Festival canceled

CHESTER, Vt. – The Chester Selectboard agreed to proceed with plans for the July 3 fireworks hosted by Chester American Legion during the same meeting they were informed that the Chester Fall Festival Committee had decided to cancel the 2020 festival, a long-running town favorite.

Board member Jeff Holden posed the topic of the July 4th Holiday Fireworks to the board, since the Legion needed approval by Friday if they were going to move forward. Holden said that residents knew what the COVID-19 standards are and that citizens can park all over, throughout the Legion lawn area and in other areas in town and see the fireworks.

Board chair Arne Jonynas said that he thought they should go with it saying, “By then, we might need a little community activity.” He also said that fireworks can be seen all over town and that the event was “doable because of the space we have.” Board member Lee Gustafson agreed, saying to “do what we need to do to make it happen.”

Board member Heather Chase expressed her concern for following social distancing guidelines according to the governor’s directive; however, Holden said that they weren’t going to enforce it but felt everyone would be responsible enough to do what they think is safe.

The board entered into an executive session to discuss a recently filed lawsuit against the town of Chester by Jersey Girls owner Lisa Kaiman for losses to her business as a result of poor maintenance of the Thompson and Palmer bridges that lead to her property and resulted in restricted access for commercial vehicles to her farm. The board took no public action at the meeting.

After the executive session, however, Leigh Dakin informed the board that the Chester Fall Festival had been canceled for 2020. According to the Chester Fall Festival committee’s Facebook page, “Unfortunately, given COVID-19, we did not feel that we could both keep everyone safe and put on the festival in the capacity that everyone looks forward to and expects.”

The town pool is slated to reopen June 19, in keeping with the governor’s guidelines. They will formulate a plan to comply with a maximum of 25 people. The recreation department is already doing small sports clinics. A formal plan for the pool will be presented to the board at the June 17 meeting.

Hance and the town have been dealing with complaints regarding parking and noise at the Pinnacle Recreation area. Working with two homeowners that live next to the park, Hance has come up with a plan for providing designated parking, installing a sign that outlines rules for noise levels and hours, and putting in a gate. Next year, they also agreed to plant a row of hemlock trees to screen noise and view. Hance said both property owners were happy with the plans. The town will also continue to work with Police Chief Rick Cloud on ways to keep the area under control.

The Academy Building plaster ceiling has been inspected and determined that plaster is in great condition other than the one spot that failed from a roof leak that has since been fixed. Town Manager Julie Hance will reach out to additional firms to try and get the repair done for less than the $47,000 estimate that had been received last year. If the bids remain that high, Hance said they could appeal for an easement by the Council of Preservation Trust to ask to fix the ceiling in another way.

Hance has approved moving forward with fixing the Yosemite Firehouse roof for $7,000 but will not move forward with other repairs this year due to budget concerns. Hance said that in both cases, the Academy Building and the Yosemite Firehouse, that they were being mindful of budget but wanting to keep things progressing.

Clean up has started at the Jeffrey Barn and will progress over the summer as the town crews have time.

The next Chester Selectboard meeting is slated to be in person, June 17, at 6 p.m. on the second floor of the Town Hall Building. The board will take all necessary social distancing and safety precautions.

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