May 9, 2021

Sept. 26 Town Meeting Set to Act on Lease of Chester Town Hall to Essex Savings Bank

CHESTER— Voters will be asked at a Sept. 26 town meeting to approve a ten year lease of the vacant ground floor space at town hall to the Essex Savings Bank. The town meeting, set to begin at 7:30 p.m. at the Chester Meeting House on Liberty Street, will be preceded by a public hearing on the issue that convenes at 7 p.m.

The lease agreement that was released by town officials Thursday specifies the bank would lease 3,219 square feet on the south side ground floor of the town hall building at 203 Middlesex Avenue (Route 154) for a monthly rent payment of $5,633, or $67,596 per year. The lease would extend for ten years, to 2022, with an option for two five year renewals.

The ground floor space had been occupied by a Bank of America branch from the opening of the town hall building in 2003 until June, when the Bank of America branch closed. The closure plans were announced early this year, and residents at an April 17 public information meeting expressed strong support for seeking another bank to lease the space, rather than converting the space for municipal use. Representatives of Essex Savings Bank, which has offices and branches in Essex, Old Lyme, Old Saybrook and Madison, expressed interest in the space at the April meeting, and Essex Savings Bank was the only responder to a request for proposals published by the town in June.

Bank of America had been paying $75,000 per year for the space under a lease agreement that was last revised in 2007. First Selectman Edmund Meehan said Thursday the continuing slow national and regional economy was the main reason for the drop in the rental payment.

Meehan said the lease agreement has been unanimously approved by the board of selectmen and board of finance, even with the decrease in rent. “It’s a specialized space and we only had one bank looking at it,” he said.

Under a provision that is unchaged from the previous lease, the bank will pay 21 percent of all monthly utility expenses, such as fuel oil and electricity, for the town hall building. Meehan said the opening of a new Essex Savings Bank branch in Chester will also require approval from the State Banking Commission, a step that would follow final approval of the lease by the town. The bank is scheduled to begin paying the monthly rent and occupy the space in November.