CHESTER – Chester’s annual Town Meeting ran for about eight hours on Saturday, May 18, and at its height saw about 200 voters come to the multipurpose room. The day started at 9 a.m. and finished up around 3 p.m. The number of voters peaked early and as the day and arguments for and against each article wore on, that number dwindled. Twenty-eight articles were reviewed Saturday.
While voters passed the budget with no discussion and agreed to fund most warrant articles, they did not have an appetite for a handful of articles, including the headliner, the purchase of the Chester College of New England property for $1.8 million.
The meeting was fairly subdued, and only now and again did tempers flare over articles important to a particular voter or town official. There was plenty of the usual Chester Town Meeting atmosphere to go around, with neighbors talking with neighbors over warrant articles and unofficial business alike. The Sons of the American Legion sold lunch items, Holly Antoine held a bake sale to support her participation in the Young Rescuers, and in the back row, Jackie Brown looked perhaps the most comfortable of the crowd as she lounged in a beach chair she brought for the long day of warrant review.
Many articles were on the ballot dealing with the highway department, and while a couple of key items passed, most of the articles that failed were highway related. Voters agreed to fund future roadwork through a capital reserve fund and gave $200,000 to next year’s asphalt work, but refrained from giving the department more equipment or money to improve the highway shed area.
Voters approved the creation of a part-time library director position on the strength of arguments from the Chester Public Library’s Trustees. There was some confusion about why the article was on the warrant and not included in the budget. Selectmen chair Steph Landau said his board was in favor of the article and didn’t think the selectmen could say how the trustees chose to run the library. Budget committee member Chris Hadik explained that his committee voted against the measure in light of an increased library budget, most of which comes from additional employee hours.
Library trustees noted that the library was growing fast and there were not enough employee hours to keep up with it. The new position is slated to have a big hand in children’s programming and youth services, one of the fastest growing sections of the library.
“If it wasn’t needed, we wouldn’t have presented it,” said trustee Kandace Knowlton. Members of the public gave support to library director Tim Sheehan and the efforts he’s made in expanding the library since he was hired in 2009. Resident David Kovacs said the library is an important part of town infrastructure and thus should be supported. His remarks gained applause.
The new position at a first year cost of $22,100 was created with a vote of 60-50. Also supported was the transfer station. Voters approved funding a roof extension for the building and the purchase of a skid steer tractor. The roof was a close voice vote and the skid steer passed 51-34.
Voters also nearly unanimously supported an effort to commemorate Chester civic leaders and founders through the creation of a granite memorial at Stevens Memorial Hall. Together with Darrell Quinn, John Colman has been instrumental in getting the idea to the people and on Saturday, Colman explained the project.
It was important to remember people who, with their selfless civic efforts, helped make Chester the prosperous place it is, said Colman. In light of this idea the selectmen authorized the creation of the Heritage Commission, whose members have been busy researching life stories and brainstorming ways to publicly and prominently display these individuals.
Voters approved $10,000 to be added to a capital reserve fund to begin work on a memorial.
Saturday’s results are as follows.
Article 5, $1.8 million for college property, TABLED.
Article 6, to establish a highway capital reserve fund with $350,000, PASSED.
Article 7, $200,000 for asphalt, PASSED.
Article 8, to hire a part-time library director, PASSED.
Article 9, $57,000 to add a roof to transfer station, PASSED.
Article 10, budget, PASSED.
Article 11, $185,000 for a dump truck, FAILED.
Article 12, $135,000 for a loader, FAILED.
Article 13, $110,000 for work to highway shed area, TABLED.
Article 14, $85,000 for the Winter Road Maintenance Expendable Trust Fund, PASSED.
Article 15, $50,000 for reroofing multipurpose room, PASSED.
Article 16, skid steer tractor for transfer station, PASSED.
Article 17, $40,250 for a new police cruiser, PASSED.
Article 18 $10,000 to Building Improvement and Maintenance Capital Reserve Fund, PASSED.
Article 19, $15,000 for future revaluation, PASSED.
Article 20, cemetery lot revenues, PASSED.
Article 21, $10,000 for a commemorative monument, PASSED.
Article 22, $5,000 for 300th anniversary celebration, PASSED.
Article 23, $7,881 for Public Access Cable Television, PASSED.
Article 24, discontinue police fund, PASSED.
Article 25, discontinue Fremont Bridge fund, PASSED.
Article 26, discontinue Employee Separation fund,
PASSED. Article 27, to hear reports, PASSED.
Article 28, to transact other business.