Andover’s allocation for fire and ambulance services under review

CHESTER, Vt. – At the Sept. 1 Chester Selectboard meeting, the board heard from members of the Andover Selectboard as discussions begin concerning the budget assessment for Andover that cover the Fire, Ambulance, and Dispatch services from Chester for their town.

The budget assessment for Andover is currently at $36,800, a number that hasn’t risen in five years, with $24,000 being for fire coverage alone. Currently, however, there is no contract between Andover and Chester.

Chester Town Manager Julie Hance, along with a recommendation from Chester Fire Chief Matt Wilson, is suggesting that Chester change the way they are assessing Andover, specifically establishing a contract with Andover rather than a flat assessment.

As part of that process to begin discussions, Hance provided total overall costs for supporting Chester Fire, Ambulance, Recreation, Dispatch and the EMS building; and then laid out options for Andover’s portion in several different ways – via the grand list, per capita, or per parcel.

Total Chester costs for Fire, Ambulance, Dispatch, Recreation and EMS building equaled almost $570,000; with Andover’s allocation based on grand list coming in at over $157,000; based on per capita coming in at approximately $74,000; and based on land parcel, coming in at nearly $153,000.

Andover Selectboard member Maddie Bodin provided some background on past discussions amongst the residents, stretching back before she sat on the board. She said that the discussions stretched over several town meetings so she was not surprised there was no contract. As she explained it, when the Andover Selectboard approved the allocation, there was a lot of pushback from the town. Bodin said that Andover residents felt that they relied on several towns for services, not just Chester, and they were providing a sum to Chester simply as recognition that they were a primary provider, but not the only provider.

“One thing about Andover is that some people live very close to Weston, some people live very close to Ludlow, some people live near Windham, and some people live near Chester. You might be surprised at how vocal the people who live near other towns are,” she said.

Hance said that she was continuing to gather more information from other towns to see how they were structuring their contracts to consider other options. She said that the large numbers that were coming up when looking at grand list was what prompted her to start researching a different way to doing things.

Bodin also said that the Andover’s current Selectboard hadn’t discussed this at all and would like to meet on the issue and get back to the Chester board.

Board Chairman Arne Jonynas agreed that Hance had more information to gather and hopefully they could come up with an answer that makes sense for everybody involved.

In other news, Fire, Ambulance And Police have officially moved in to the public safety building. There will be an official open house event Sunday, Sept 26 at 2 p.m. There will be a barbecue, other attractions, and a tour of building.

Prior to moving into the new building, all Police Department policies have been updated with the most modern ones from the Vermont League of Cities and Towns and the training has been completed including those on processing, sally port, fingerprinting, and holding cell procedures.

Lee Whiting received permission from the board to again host a “Wheels in the Field” event, which will bring approximately 140 motorcyclists into town from Friday, Oct. 1 through Sunday, Oct. 3. The event will include planned course rides as well as historic Scottish trials and a stunt show.

Planning for the Chester Festival on the Green, scheduled Sept. 18 and 19, is in full swing with a concert venue planned for behind the Fullerton Inn with many music guests including headliner Jamie Lee Thurston on Sunday, from noon to 2 p.m. There is also an extensive agricultural component being set up behind the Academy Building with tractor displays, sheep herding demonstrations, apple cider demonstrations, a hay bale maze and many games. The Academy Building front lawn will be made into a large food court with tables and market umbrellas.

The Green Mountain Unified School District board has a new Chester position to fill with the resignation of Jeannie Wade, who had to step aside after being hired by the Chester-Andover Elementary School. As part of their hiring process, they have asked whether the Selectboard would like to participate in the process and how much they would like to be involved.

The Selectboard requested that candidates for the Green Mountain Unified District School Board director position attend the next Selectboard meeting to introduce themselves to the board and Chester residents. They can approve all candidates, none, or recommend a particular candidate, all of which are non-binding to the GMUSD board. The board will decide their next steps at the meeting. GMUSD is gathering candidates, although they already have three who have requested the seat.

The next Chester Selectboard meeting is Wednesday, Sept. 15 at 6 p.m. at the Chester Town Hall.

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