CHESTER— Voters at a town meeting Wednesday gave quick and unanimous approval to a 10-year lease of vacant ground floor space at the town hall to Essex Savings Bank. About 30 residents turned out for the town meeting and a required public hearing that preceded the vote.
The bank, which has branches in Essex, Old Lyme, Old Saybrook, and Madison, will lease the 3,219 square-feet on the south side ground floor of the building at 203 Middlesex Avenue, also known as Route 154. The space had been occupied by a Bank of America branch since the opening of the town hall in 2003 until late June, when the branch closed. Essex Savings Bank will be paying $67,599 per year, or $5,633 per month, for the space, along with 21 percent of the fuel oil and electricity expenses for the building.
While the payment for utilities is unchanged, the rental payment is slightly lower than the amount Bank of America has been paying since 2007, which was $75,900 per year. First Selectman Edmund Meehan said the slow state and area economy of recent years was the reason for the decrease in the rent.
Several residents spoke in favor of the lease, which Town Clerk Debra Calamari described as a “very positive thing for the town.” Calamari and others praised Essex Savings Bank as a “wonderful community bank,” that would be welcome ion Chester.
The opening of the new branch also requires approval from the State Banking Commission, which is expected in the coming weeks. Meehan said the space is “really accommodating to a bank and ready to go.” The branch is expected to open for business later this fall.
Voters also gave final approval for two expenditures from the capital expenditure fund that is part of the current town budget, $326,123 for road repairs and improvements, and $161,208 for the 2013 townwide property revaluation. Meehan noted the board of selectmen last week accepted a favorable bid from EQuality Valuation Services for the revaluation, with the total cost for the project now expected not to exceed $78,000. He said the unexpended funds could be used next year to prefund other capital projects, or to help limit any increase in the tax rate in 2013.