Park problems, ward refutes and reorganization at the Jan. 14 town board meeting

Chester. The first town board meeting of 2023 brings a wealth of updates.

| 18 Jan 2023 | 12:52

The first meeting of Chester Town Board in 2023 featured ample discussion on Chester Commons Park’s current condition, responses to a previous meeting’s comments, and government reorganization including a retirement and an officer appointment.

Chester Commons Park

The meeting opened with public comments focused on Chester Commons Park, with many residents stressing that the park’s fields are hazardous and in need of restoration and repair.

“The Chester Commons has been in terrible condition since I was a kid playing on those fields, it’s in even worse condition now,” Joe Berot, a local resident and coach of the Chester Youth Soccer Club, said. “Practice field to the right-hand side has divots, craters, rocks sticking out. I myself coached this year and twisted my ankle. It’s unsafe, it’s a liability, and our hope is that the town will put a plan in to fix the field.”

Berot added he and members of the soccer club can volunteer if the board needs help.

Tina Carreras and Donna Jodice, vice president and registrar of Monroe-Woodbury’s Youth Football and Cheer respectively, brought up similar issues with the park’s fields and offered their services to repair them.

“It becomes a hazard to some of our kids, and we just want to see what could do to help you,” Carreras said. “In the past, we’ve offered to help seed the field. We have landscapers on board in our league that have actually mowed it for us because we couldn’t even see the lines in the field anymore.”

“Chester is our home field, we promote Chester, we love it here. It’s family to use here, our families have a good time...but it does become an issue, especially on those days that the weather just ripped up the entire field,” Jodice added. “Our boys are used to it with their cleats. Our cheerleaders, it gets a little stressful to watch them in situations like this.”

In lieu of fixing Chester Common’s fields, the board motioned to hire three seasonal park employees to help restore and maintain the town’s new and old fields.

The ward system

Following public comments, Councilwoman Cindy Smith responded to Susan Barhen’s criticisms against the board from the December 14 town board meeting. Barhen said the board should have finished Chester’s ward system before the 2023 town council elections, emphasizing that the board “had all the time in the world to do it.”

“I resent that Sue Barhen, last meeting, came up to say that I don’t care about my job and that the town board doesn’t do their job about the ward system. If she had been watching meetings and listening, she would know back in 2021, I started that process and made four contacts.”

Other board members agreed with Smith.

“I wasn’t here for the meeting but I watched it,” said Councilman Robert Courtenay. “Just to piggyback on that, I couldn’t agree with you more.”
“We voted on the wards, and it was discussed,” said Supervisor Robert Valentine. “If you go back in the minutes, you’ll find the discussions on it. But it was always understood that the wards wouldn’t take place probably until 2023 because the census came first.”

Honoring Kathy Scalia

During their reorganization of Chester’s government, the board honored Kathy Scalia, the town’s former assessor’s clerk who recently retired after working with Chester since August of 1990.

“Whereas Scalia is an outstanding citizen who has contributed so much during her 32 years as an employee of the town of Chester, and whereas Kathy began her career at the town of Chester as a temporary data clerk and never left,” Valentine said.

Some of Scalia’s standout contributions to the town include calling and reminding seniors to file their exemption forms and reading through Chester’s obituaries so she could remove improper exemptions.

“Kathy will be dearly missed by her colleagues and coworkers with her sneezing to wake the building and her entertaining stories on everything as she retires,” he continued.