CHESTER, Vt. – At the Wednesday, Nov. 7 Chester Selectboard meeting, the board heard a proposal from Chester Townscape about their upcoming projects in 2019. Chester Townscape is a 501(c)(3) organization made up of 19 volunteers. A majority of their funding comes from donations and in-kind services. They maintain public garden spaces throughout Chester, including the garden boxes on the bridges.
Most of the plantings in place currently in Chester are annuals, which die each year due to the frost. While the annuals provide lots of color, they also require a lot of watering and maintenance. Instead, the group is considering the use of perennials.
Nancy Chute said, “We’re targeting several areas that we feel will benefit from public plantings and, once installed, they’ll reduce our annual costs and save on maintenance.”
One of the projects the group plans to take on in the spring of 2019 is the area around the information booth. They’ve hired Saxtons River landscape architect Bethany Gracia to design the proposed improvements, which Chute presented to the board. The proposals include low-growing perennials that would bloom at different times of the year. All the plantings would be native and pollinators, which would make the project a teaching garden for local elementary students. The total cost for the plantings would be $2,600.
Chester Townscape also spoke to Scott Wunderle to use leftover granite from the town pit to construct a more inviting walkway to the information booth. He quoted them $7,600 for the project.
Chute presented the board with a list of requests for aid in their project. The request included removing the burning bush and Spirea around the information center and filling in the holes, removing debris and adding gravel, removing moss on the roof of the information center, removing scruffy bushes around the cemetery entrance and laying down wood chips, and contributing funds for Wunderle’s project and the spring plantings.
Heather Chase thanked Chester Townscape for their presentation and suggested that Town Manager David Pisha, Public Works Director Graham Kennedy, and Wunderle negotiate to come up with a final price for the town.
Arne Jonynas added, “It’s the money part that’s a little worrisome this time of year” as the town is approaching the end of this year’s budget cycle and starting work on the upcoming budget year.
The Board decided it would be best for Pisha, Kennedy, and Wunderle to discuss negotiations before moving forward with a decision.
The Chester Selectboard also heard from Betsy Bosiak of Green Mountain Power about an upcoming project on the poles and lines along Andover Road from Route 11 to the Chester town line. The project would include adding new poles and replacing others to accommodate for a heavier wire that GMP would be installing. In order to go forward with the project, GMP needs easement deeds from all the properties along the road.
According to Bosiak, in 1965 the town of Chester purchased 66 feet of right of way from landowners along the road for reconstruction. Therefore, in order for the project to proceed, GMP needed the Selectboard to sign the easement deed.
Bosiak also explained that she was making contact with landowners who already signed easement deeds to update them on the project plans. She is also reaching out to other landowners to make new easement deeds. Once all the permits and easements are completed, the project can move forward, but getting to that point could take up to a year. The project itself could take three to four months.
The Selectboard went forward with signing the easement deed.
Finally, Julie Hance announced to the board that Chester was awarded a $20,000 grant from the Open Space Institute to fund community planning process to determine whether the town would purchase the Tomasso property. The grant required a $5,000 match from the town in appraisal work, which Hance explained that the town had already paid.
She said that what was required now was the board to discuss whether they would accept the grant funding and have Pisha sign the letter of acceptance.
Lee Gustafson brought up concerns from Chester residents about whether the town was spending too much money, especially in considering the purchase of the Tomasso land.
Hance explained that in accepting the grant from Open Space Institute, the funds could be used to hire a consulting firm or creating a committee to determine the economic impact, benefits, and costs of the purchase to hopefully answer those questions. The purpose of the grant is to find whether the project is viable.
After discussion, the Selectboard motioned for Pisha to sign the acceptance letter.
For more information on the Chester Selectboard, go to www.chestervt.gov/select-board.