Chester Selectmen Cap Costs for Hiring Planning Consultant

CHESTER – As the planning board moves forward with the use of The Better Future Alliance as a planning consultant, the board of selectmen has decided to cap what it can spend on that service in 20-hour increments.

The planning board had previously asked the selectmen to provide money for the consultant, as its board had no significant funding for such a move. The planning board has decided that with serious challenges coming in the development of the former Chester College of New England property in the center of town, it would be wise to have professional expertise, and thus contacted The Better Future Alliance, the same firm that had previously helped the town ponder the wisdom of purchasing the property.
At their Thursday, Oct. 24 meeting, the selectmen raised the issue, referencing a discussion with representation from the land use boards at their last scheduled meeting, as previously reported by the Tri-Town Times.
Selectmen Joe Hagan and Steph Landau were present at that previous meeting, but no other selectmen attended and thus no quorum was reached. A discussion was held regardless, and Mike Weider of the planning board suggested that no more than a few thousand dollars would likely be spent before the end of the fiscal year, when the planning board could appropriate its own money for the work.
At last week’s selectmen’s meeting, Selectman Jack Cannon was primarily concerned about the cost, asking whether the board was comfortable with spending $5,000 to $7,000 on the project before June.
Better Future Alliance has offered a contract for the work at $85 an hour, a rate it charged for its previous work with the town.
Cannon said he thinks there should be more control and more updating from the planning board instead of a blank authorization to spend a few thousand dollars.
Cannon added that he thinks the planning board is capable of handling the project, but wants to know periodically if things are moving forward in the way that all had envisioned.
Hagan suggested authorizing expending for 20 hours of work at a time, at which point the planning board would come back to the board with an update and reauthorization of another portion of hours.
Hagan made a motion to that effect, which was agreed to unanimously by all board members present. Joe Castricone was not in attendance.
The planning board has not yet officially hired The Better Future Alliance.

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