Chester considers Knapp's View for new town complex

Town board's proposal would move police station and court to ambulance building

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Wish list

Parks head Water Popailo suggests the following improvements:
New spectator stands and renovated bathrooms at Chester Commons.
A “Town of Chester All Stars” imprint on the field at Carpenter Field, along with remodeled bathrooms and new lights.
Blacktopping for Oak Park’s popular basketball court.
A spruced-up bocci court for senior citizens, a concession stand upgrade, and fencing.
Tree trimming and dead tree removal Pulvirent Field
Adding a jungle gym for the younger set.

By Edie Johnson

— The Town of Chester is looking into whether to build a town hall, library, and recreation building on Knapp's View, 90 pretty acres that the town purchased ten years ago for open space and "passive" recreation.

The town board gave the OK first for an $18,000 engineering study, but the public wanted the study to include other sites that would not "interfere" with the open space at Knapp's View. Supervisor Alex Jamieson responded by setting up a small committee led by Councilman Bob Valentine to explore other possibilities.

Jamieson said he was reluctant to do this because other available sites were too small to develop in the way he envisions. He said the town's plan is to "build a low-profile building into the lower part of the hillside so that it will not interfere with the bucolic views, or the numerous successful parks programs such as kite flying and tobogganing that have become so popular on the hillside."

He said the police department and courts would move to the ambulance building now being vacated.

Because of the project's size, it will likely be put before the public for a vote. Officials hope the design work will be far enough along to get the project on the ballot by November.

Some residents said a site at the Commons park would be better since it's already heavily used and in a more populated area.

Others said that if the town is doing so great with its finances, it should return some of the money to residents.

An overflowing senior center

Chester officials have for years been talking about getting a new town hall and senior center. Just in the past two years Chester has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on roof repairs and flooding fixes for its town hall, and on ceiling tiles and flooring for the senior center next door. The senior center has a waiting list because it doesn't have room for everybody who wants to join.

Town officials have been meeting for nearly two years under the leadership of Alan Sorenson of Planet Main Street to update the town's comprehensive plan. To pay for the new construction, they plan to use the proceeds from selling the current town hall, income from refinancing the town's bonds, and grants they hope to get from the NYS Energy Research and Development Authority and the federal government. If all goes according to plan, officials say, there will be no increase in taxes to fund the new structure, and within five years it will essentially "pay for itself."

Jamieson said he wants to expand the town's recreational to entice new residents to town, and to engage Warwick residents along King's Highway who actually live closer to Chester than to Warwick's town center.

Jamieson, conservation groups, and TD Bank have been discussing possibility of purchasing the 397 acres the late Steve Sherman had hoped to develop as Chester Golf. Since Sherman's death last year, the property fell into foreclosure for $4 million and is now owned by TD Bank. The piece is adjacent to several other parks, including Goosepond State Park.

Jamieson said Chester has grown so much over the past 10 years, it needs a parks and recreation program that can keep up. In a controversial move last month, he dissolved the parks commission, making it into a department that now answers directly to the town board. He hired Walter Popailo as the new department head, and asked for ways to upgrade park resources.

Popailo said he wants to see police make more unscheduled stops at all parks to improve security.

Summer camp begins next Monday, June 29. A fireworks display sponsored by Suburban Propane will be held at Walton Engine in the Chester Black Dirt Valley at dusk on Saturday, July 12.

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