CHESTER – The board of selectmen and members of the heritage committee have agreed to continue to work toward a design for a memorial honoring Chester’s important citizens. According to discussions at the selectmen’s Thursday, April 10 meeting, the heritage committee will be looking to meet in the coming weeks, develop a new design or two and come back to the board for further review.
They may also seek to have a detailed design drawing made to help citizens visualize what they have in mind.
At last town meeting voters approved $10,000 for a memorial, but that work has stalled because of differences in opinion between members of the group and the selectmen over what that work should entail. The vision for the memorial was originally a relatively small, three-sided granite structure, but discussions among the group expanded that vision to a larger memorial and one that would incorporate changes to its planned site, the green in front of Stevens Memorial Hall.
Selectmen disagreed with the scope of the project at that point and since then, communication between the two groups had largely stopped.
But with ire over a warrant article to defund the project, chair of the committee John Colman set up a meeting with the board. It was clear April 10 that Colman was upset over the way he had been treated and sought to air those concerns. Much of that frustration was directed toward selectman Jack Cannon. Though the two went back and forth, eventually what had happened in the past with the project was put aside with hope for better cooperation in the future.
After an initial meeting with the selectmen last year, Colman and other members of the committee had met with a couple members of the board to work out a compromise, but details of that meeting had not been conveyed to the entire board. Chair Steph Landau apologized April 10 for that lapse in communication.
Cannon said the project scope presented to him was “garish” and not in keeping with the town’s character of “modest distinction.”
Colman said nothing was set in stone, but he did not think the project was overly extravagant as originally presented. He said the committee was willing to compromise and find a solution.
On April 10, committee member Web Anderson said more work needed to be done with the memorial’s plans, as nothing had been finalized. He said it was unfortunate that the matter had turned into a contested issue, but it wasn’t worth throwing the baby out with the bathwater and ceasing work altogether.
Committee member Don Brown also weighed in, saying that while it wasn’t surprising that there was resistance by some to any changes to the Stevens Hall green, his experience with other memorials is that initial resistance is replaced with agreement when the project is more fully understood or carried out.
Brown, referencing contention that any trees be cut on the green, said that when attempting to replicate an early 1900s picture of Stevens Hall a couple years ago, the picture could not be taken from the Chester Congregational Baptist Church’s steeple as it had been taken originally, because the foliage had grown so much. The area hasn’t always looked as it does today, he noted.
Committee member Richard Noyes concurred with the idea that historically any changes in town have been met with resistance but eventually incorporated smoothly.
It was also suggested that the committee think again about placing the memorial in the green where the Civil War monument is, and the Civil War cannons were.
Resident Mike Oleson suggested the committee hire someone to do a detailed architectural drawing of their plan to allow for better understanding.
By the end of the meeting, Cannon said he had utmost confidence in the group working on the memorial and its ability to do the right thing for Chester.
The groups agreed to better communication in the future, Landau stating that things should have been done differently in the past but that he hoped they could progress in the future.