CHESTER – According to a discussion at the latest selectmen’s meeting, the board has agreed on a course of action for the refurbishment of the exterior of the post office, also known as the Ruth Ray Building, in the center of town.
There has been an ongoing argument about whether the building should be painted or sided with vinyl, but according to an agreement at the Thursday, Feb. 6 meeting, the board will be moving forward with painting, but with an expanded scope of work.
According to Town maintenance man Tony Amato, for the $47,000 already appropriated for a painting project, the town could strip the existing lead-painted clapboards and install new primed clapboards on two sides of the building.
Selectman chair Steph Landau suggested adding a few thousand dollars to the government buildings budget to buy paint and windows for half the building and let in-house labor install the windows and paint the primed clapboards.
Selectman Jack Cannon said the project made sense. Cannon has been adamantly opposed to vinyl siding for the historic building.
Selectman Rich LeBlanc has argued that vinyl siding for the rarely painted building is the way to go, as the cost for the siding, together with insulation and windows, was the same as for painting the building.
Amato said he’s received many emails from people opposed to vinyl, as well as complaints about the deteriorated condition of the building, particularly the south side.
Initially Amato suggested to the selectmen that they place a warrant article for an additional $62,000 for the project so that both sides of the building could be redone and painted this year, but Landau successfully argued that it was too high a price tag, especially considering that voters approved money for the project last year and nothing had yet been done.
Other discussion focused on the quality of the interior of the building, and while it was agreed that the post office portion was good, the rest of the building needs serious rehabilitation, an effort the board was not yet ready to contemplate.
Amato said he thinks the plan to re-side the building with clapboard would solve the concerns on both sides of the paint/vinyl issue, and with rough finished new clapboards, the paint would coat well and the lead paint contamination issues of the existing structure would be solved.
Amato said he would write a Request for Proposal for the project in the coming days.
The buildings account was agreed to by the board at a cost of $263,592.98. Landau said the increase was only up a few thousand from the current year’s number but Cannon noted that the number was significantly higher, once the post office paint project, included in the current year’s figure and a one-time project, was removed.
Other increases in the budget include drainage improvements and paving of the area in front of the highway department’s salt shed and $16,000 to paint the Chester Public Library.
By the end of their meeting last week, the selectmen had reviewed all town budgets. They have not yet sent any of them to the budget committee for review, as mistakenly reported by the Tri-Town Times. As in years past, the selectmen plan to put their final stamp of approval on all budgets later in the season.