Selectmen Accept Conservation Money for Wason Pond Road

CHESTER – The board of selectmen has formally agreed to accept $10,000 from the conservation commission to pay for the relocation of the road into the Wason Pond Conservation and Recreation Area on Route 102.
All selectmen except chair Steph Landau agreed to the motion put forward by Rich LeBlanc.

The $10,000 is needed because bids for the field leveling work and road relocation came in above what the town had set aside to pay for it. There was $90,000 in the coffers, between $45,000 raised by the Chester Field of Dreams group and matching funds from taxpayers.
The lowest bid for the field and roadwork came in at $92,475 and $10,100 respectively.
The Chester Field of Dreams group, now the Chester Charitable Foundation, agreed to cover the overages in the fieldwork portion of the project, but said it would be inappropriate to cover roadwork with the money they had raised for the fields.
When awarding the bid earlier in the month, Landau moved to pay for the roadwork overages with highway department funds. Other selectmen had issues with the chair’s proposal because he had not conferred with road agent Mike Oleson before commandeering that money.
At the Thursday, Sept. 26 selectmen’s meeting, Landau had a couple of reasons for voting against accepting conservation’s money.
One was because he was sure there was money to be found elsewhere in the budget and there was no rush to find money to pay for the project immediately.
The chair’s second reason was that despite the conservation commission’s approval and offering to fund the project, Landau said conservation money should be used strictly for conservation.
Usually conservation fund money goes toward buying or maintaining conservation land, but the commission has often stepped in to help complete or pay for town projects, such as the Wason Pond Dam, in the past.
Soon after indicating that conservation money should only be used for conservation, Landau said changes to the plans for improvements to the Edwards Mill Dam could require additional conservation money instead.
Another motion by LeBlanc had him seeking to rescind the board’s previous motion on the matter, which had authorized use of the highway funds. LeBlanc explained that he only voted for that original motion because he wanted to make sure the project got off the ground.
But with new funding from conservation, LeBlanc said there was no need to dip into highway funds.
There was some confusion about whether the board could rescind the motion because it was wrapped up in the awarding of the bid.
Selectman Jack Cannon questioned the wisdom of rescinding the motion and sought clarification from counsel before doing so.
At first Landau was sure that it was an unwise move because it would stop the whole project, but later, when it was realized that the original motion stipulated that highway funds would be used only if necessary, the chair said he purposefully put in that stipulation, in case other money was found after the fact.
The board agreed no motion to rescind was therefore necessary.

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