Astronomy group relocates observatory
By Christian Avard
Staff Writer | March 21,2013
CHESTER — A local astronomy group has withdrawn its consideration for a public observatory in the town of Chester.
The Southern Vermont Astronomy Group sent the Select Board a letter March 12 stating they were “retracting the offer” due to a lack of support from the town.
SoVerA President Claudio Veliz said they now have a new site for the facility but it will not be available for public use.
“It’s going to be installed next week or the week after at a private residence near Gassetts,” Veliz said. “The one setback is we can’t be covered for the general public. However, we’re still pursuing the possibility of a public facility sometime in the near future.”
SoVerA approached the Select Board last fall after a New Hampshire man donated his 7 feet by 9 feet observatory to the group. They discussed with the Select Board the possibility of re-siting the observatory at The Pinnacle Park on Lovers Lane in Chester but no agreement was reached.
According to their letter, SoVerA asked the Select Board at a Nov. 21 meeting if funding by the town “was sufficiently likely that it would be worthwhile for SoVerA to contact contractors and suppliers to secure commitments and estimates.”
According to SoVerA, the Select Board said “yes.”
SoVerA said it would cost $7,000 to install the observatory with proper ventilation and an energy efficient roof. But SoVerA said the board changed its mind and had no intention of giving any funds to installing the observatory.
SoVerA board members expressed “growing frustrations” with the Select Board and decided to move on.
“SoVerA is robustly open to revisit the possibility of a new observatory at anytime if the town wants to approach us,” Veliz said. “We wanted support from all sectors. The town was going to provide us with the land and electricity. But had they given us $1,500 or even $3,000, that would have been a gesture of collaboration.”
Select Board Vice Chairman Derek Suursoo acknowledged the Select Board expressed interest in SoVerA’s proposal but needed more information. He also stated the Select Board made no final determination regarding the use of town property or services.
“The Chester Select Board were frugal with the town’s money,” Suursoo said. “The proposal they presented was not fully fleshed out.”