CHESTER | Voters will decide on $567,563 worth of warrant articles and a $3.28 million operating budget at the annual Town Meeting on Wednesday.

The warrant articles cover a variety of topics, including hiring town employees and repairing the Wason Pond dam.

The town's operating budget represents a 4.4 percent increase over last year's $3.14 million budget. Most of the largest increases in the budget are due to costs in the Fire and Highway departments.

The Fire Department's $241,129 proposed budget is an 18 percent increase over this year's and is mostly due to the need to replace some of the department's protective equipment, according to Budget Committee Chairwoman Rhonda Lamphere.

The Highway Department's budget increased by almost 19 percent to $345,082. The biggest factors in that increase were $19,000 added to the surveying and engineering line item and a $10,000 stipend for the road agent, Lamphere said.

Article 13 is the most expensive warrant article | a $250,000 proposal for repairs to the Wason Pond Dam. The article is unanimously supported by the Board of Selectmen but is not backed by the Budget Committee.

Tom LaPorte, the committee's vice chairman, said the $250,000 figure is a worst-case scenario presented by selectmen. There is still more engineering needed to be done on the dam that could bring down the total cost.

"It's difficult to raise a quarter million dollars when you don't have any hard estimates to go by," he said.

Also not supported by the Budget Committee is a $50,000 proposal to repair the inside of Stevens Memorial Hall while a $50,000 proposal to repair the building's exterior did not receive the committee's approval.

The building will be 100 years old in a few years and the committee thought it would be best to spread the cost of repairs over a couple of years instead of raising all the money at once, LaPorte said.

Inside the building, a water holding tank needs to be removed because it is causing mold. Wooden flooring needs to be replaced throughout the building. Also, the antique tin ceilings on the first floor need to be replaced but the town still needs to find a company that can match the pattern of the original tiles, LaPorte said.

On the outside, the building needs to be painted and the copper gutters replaced. While less-expensive options are available for the gutters, copper is the original material and lasts much longer than aluminum or other options.

Also not supported by the Budget Committee is a $100,000 proposal to replace the furnace and boilers in the Municipal Complex, a $21,323 proposal for a full-time firefighter, and a $19,340 proposal to institute emergency house numbers in town.

Articles 18 and 19 want voters to define what the Conservation Commission's town forest fund can be used for and ask voters to increase the town forest to include the Herricks Wood and the Hatton property.

Timber management, habitat management, easement monitoring and trail management on town-owned property are the uses Article 18 defines for the fund. Conservation Commission Treasurer Baron Richardson said he did not know how long the commission has had the fund but its use has never been specifically defined.

Most recently, the fund was used to pay for harvesting trees in the Herrick Woods off Route 121 in the southwest end of town. The town received about $18,000 from the harvest, Richardson said.

He said the town plans to continue logging on the land as well as the Hatton property as part of a forestry management plan. It would also like to remove some invasive species, such as bittersweet and Japanese barbery, from the town forest.

Voting on Articles 1 through 5 will take place during the town election Tuesday from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. at the Town Offices. The remaining articles will be taken up at Town Meeting, which will begin at 7 p.m. on Wednesday at the Town Offices.

Chester Town Meeting warrant articles

Article 1: elect town officials

Article 2: amend zoning ordinance to include open space ordinance

Article 3: amend zoning ordinance to include definitions and references

Article 4: amend zoning ordinance to correct typos and references

Article 5: amend zoning ordinance to repeal setbacks and buffers

Article 6: hear the reports of agents, auditors and committees of officers

Article 7: approve a $3.28 million operating budget

Article 8: to support climate change resolutions at the national level

Article 9: to raise $19,340 to institute emergency house numbers

Article 10: to hire a full-time firefighter/EMT for $21,323

Article 11: to raise $20,000 for a mosquito abatement fund

Article 12: to raise $100,000 to replace the Municipal Complex furnace and boilers

Article 13: to fix the Wason Pond Dam for $250,000

Article 14: to raise $11,900 to install a 2-yard plastics compactor at the transfer station

Article 15: to raise $15,000 to settle potential liability for the Beede Waste Oil Superfund site

Article 16: to raise $50,000 for repairs and maintenance to the exterior of Stevens Memorial Hall

Article 17: to raise $50,000 for repairs and maintenance to the interior of Stevens Memorial Hall

Article 18: to authorize the Conservation Commission to use the town forest funds

Article 19: to increase the town forest to include Herrick Woods and the Hatton Property

Article 20: to raise $9,000 for maintenance and repairs to Spring Hill Farm

Article 21: to purchase a backhoe for $30,000.

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