Chester supervisor has big plans

Alex Jamieson is looking at new $2 million recreation center, senior center and town hall

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  • Chester seniors play Bingo at their weekly meeting at the senior center. (Photo by Nathan Mayberg)




  • Chester seniors play Bingo at their weekly meeting at the senior center. (Photo by Nathan Mayberg)



"We have to build facilities. We have a parks and recreation program. We don't have facilities."
Supervisor Alex Jamieson

By Nathan Mayberg
— He's been in office for only eight months, but Chester Supervisor Alex Jamieson is thinking big. He wants to build a $2 million town center that would house the town hall, a new senior center, recreation center and gymnasium.

The main reason for all this is to "increase the town's recreation buildings," he said.

The town has a basketball court at Carpenter Park, a tennis court, and soccer field. Jamieson believes the town needs more. He said it doesn't make sense for Chester students to travel to Orange County Community College every summer to play basketball.

He'd even like to have a baseball or softball program at the recreation center, even though Frozen Ropes, the privately operated baseball and softball instructional center, is right in town. Frozen Ropes also offers summer recreational programs.

"We could offer the programs a lot of these places offer," Jamieson said.

He envisions indoor soccer, Zumba and even line dancing at the new town center.

The town's 200-member Golden Age Senior Citizens Club, which currently meets in the library basement, has a waiting list to get in, he said.

"Every table is full," he said.

The basement is also used for periodic meetings of organizations like Little League and the Girl Scouts.

Jamieson said the town hall is in fine shape, but with the police department scheduled to move to the ambulance building at Chester Commons Park, the building could be sold, preferably to a nonprofit organization, such as a veteran's group.

Chester Commons also includes the town's highway garage, the Chester Academy football field, and a soccer field.

The ambulance building once housed the Chester Volunteer Ambulance Corps. Jamieson terminated the town's contract with the group at the start of the year, kicked them out of the building, and moved in Mobile Life Support Services at no cost. The ambulance company took the town to court over the matter.

Paying for the project
Where will the $2 million come from? By refinancing $2.9 million in bonds the town owes on Knapp View and Fieldcrest Development for a water systems project, Jamieson said. He did not have exact figures about how much the refinancing would save the town and said it's still being worked out.

He also thinks the town can get more than $700,000 in state funding to build the center. The town's engineer has applied for the grants and received "preliminary approvals," he said.

To build the center, the state Assembly and Senate must make a resolution of support signed by Gov. Cuomo, he said.

Jamieson stressed that he wants the library to stay put.

"The library is not going anywhere," he said.

The town park is just the latest in a series of boldmoves Jamieson has taken since becoming supervisor. In addition to firing the ambulance corps, he disbanded the volunteer parks commission and appointed Walter Popailo to a $41,000 a year part-time job as recreation director. The commission had opposed the move and accused Jamieson of favoring Popailo, who worked with Jamieson at Greater Hudson Bank. Jamieson said Popailo is "not a friend."

"I know a lot of people," he said.

"We had great volunteers," Jamieson said of the park commission. "We just felt that from a town board process that we needed to streamline the situation."

Jamieson said there has been "major neglect in our parks for some time." In the past month, he said, the bathrooms and concession stand were renovated, and new fencing and bleachers installed at Chester Commons Park. The work cost about $60,000, not including the pavilion, he said.

"We have to build facilities," he said. "We have a parks and recreation program," he said. "We don't have facilities."

To contact Nathan Mayberg, email comm.reporter@strausnews.com or call 845-469-9000.

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