Public safety issues dominate recent Chester Selectboard meeting

CHESTER, Vt. – The Chester Selectboard’s Sept. 15 meeting dealt with several issues involving the public safety building including donations from Yosemite Engine Company, negotiating emergency services costs for Andover, and increasing ambulance billing.

The Open House of Public Safety Building is scheduled for Sunday, Sept 26, from 2-5 p.m. Different demonstrations will be provided by Fire, Police, and Ambulance departments and residents will be allowed to tour the building. Hot dogs, chips, and water will be provided.

Town Manager Julie Hance is organizing a joint session with the Andover Selectboard and Chester’s Selectboard, along with Chester’s Fire Chief and Ambulance Chief to address confusion and lack of understanding that has arisen as the two towns are determining Andover’s allocation for emergency services coverage from Chester.

Hance said based on details that emerged from Andover’s recent Selectboard meeting, there was a need to clarify how mutual aid and fire departments work.

Board Chair Arne Jonynas agreed saying it was important to have as many people there that can answer as many questions as possible from among Chester’s emergency services personnel.

Ben Whalen, from the nonprofit Yosemite Engine Company, made a presentation to the board detailing the recent donations provided to the public safety building, which included furnishings, TV monitors, kitchen equipment, and air conditioning totaling $37,000. The YEC’s mission is to promote good will and benefit the Fire Department in Chester. Fundraising efforts include Christmas tree sales, Chester’s Festival on the Green, a calendar raffle, and a yearly appeal.

During the upcoming Open House, furnishings throughout the public safety building, including the new training room, will be tagged with their name so that residents can see their contributions and will know that those items are not coming out of the bond or the town’s tax base.

Hance highlighted the training room, saying it is catalyst for great things including hosting starting in-house EMT classes and providing a space for other town departments to hold their training and instruction, as well as open up the space for regional training opportunities.

Board member Jeff Holden also said that in a statewide emergency situation, it could be a command center and emergency shelter.

Ambulance billing rates have been raised in response to a recommendation from Chester Ambulance’s new billing collection partner Comstar. Part of Comstar’s services includes an audit of their billing, and they identified that Chester’s current rate for ambulance services is 48% below the state average. Rather than raise rates to meet the average, Hance agreed to a rate hike that is halfway between Chester’s current rates and the state average. The new rates will be posted on the town’s website, according to Hance.

The town will be scheduling a separate meeting to discuss how the town would like to use Chester’s ARPA funding, which will total nearly $900,000 in total once it has all been received. Hance is attending a meeting with other state officials to fully understand the restrictions and guidelines for how the funds can be used. Hance recommended scheduling the meeting in early November after she has attended that meeting.

The next regular Chester Selectboard meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, Oct. 6 at 6 p.m. at the Chester Town Office.

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