BRHS closure features in Ludlow Select Board meeting

LUDLOW, Vt. – After approving the April minutes, the Ludlow Select Board heard from resident Glenn Heitsmith-Smith, who referred to a community letter to legislators opposing the closure of Black River High School, which outlined the negative economic impacts on the community of closing the high school. He asked if the Select Board would consider conducting a formal economic impact study. Logan Nicoll said he would be open to the idea but questioned the extra cost, considering that the overwhelming sentiment in town is to keep the school. He stated as a graduate of Black River he attributes his success to his schooling there and he’d like to see the school stay. He acknowledged that its presence has a large economic benefit. Even though the general position of the board is in favor of keeping the school, there was a sense that a study would be an unnecessary cost, and there was no further discussion or vote on the suggestion.

Several bids for public works were moved, seconded and approved. These included $70,600 to low bidder Adams Trucking for the Andover Street culvert project; $66,200 to CRW for an EC60E mini excavator with options; and $123,661 after trade-in ($10,000) to HP Fairfield of Morrisville for a trackless excavator. Town Manager Frank Heald consulted Public Works chief Ron Tarbell, who said he had no objection to the low bid from CRW. He said that this would be the third trackless the town has owned, it’s a “proven” machine and some of the old attachments would fit it. Heald added that he had received two bids for trailers and described the two models. They were very similar but the trailer from Earle’s in Center Rutland was slightly wider with a longer deck, for $8,685.

Ludlow Town Hall. Photo provided.

Heald next asked the board to consider writing a support letter for TDI New England, which is bidding with the Commonwealth of Massachusetts for long-term clean energy contracts. He said TDI approached him. Bruce Schmidt asked if the town has ever helped a utility sell power? He commended TDI as a company but was concerned about setting a precedent, given the other utilities in the area. “Is that our responsibility?” he asked. “Not a drop” of power is coming into Ludlow from the solar project on North Hill, he continued, and he would not have favored the project if he had known that beforehand. Schmidt acknowledged that TDI “has been great” otherwise. Nicoll agreed that TDI has been very up front and easy to work with but that said a letter of support “may put us in a weird situation.”

Heald reminded the board that “Vermont can’t sit by itself,” it’s part of the New England grid, TDI has been working with Ludlow since 2014, and there would be no cost to taxpayers. In the end the board moved, seconded and voted to write a support letter.

Fire Chief Peter Kalenda reported that he had issued an RFP for cabinetry work, doors and flooring in the fire station. Both doors and flooring is 40 years old, he said. He had received estimates for a “store-bought box kitchen” from Dave Berry Woodworking and Abatiello Design Center, but a custom kitchen appealed to his officers, and it could include additional remodeling. After some discussion, the board decided to reissue the RFP for a new bid on a custom kitchen. For the flooring, after comparing proposals from Knockout Carpet and the more expensive Abatiello, the board decided to accept Knockout’s best grade vinyl over existing flooring for $7,450.

Lister Terry Thayne made his report. The total listed value of taxable properties increased from $1,352,571,300 in 2016 to $1,370,838,543 in 2017. The grievance period will begin June 13 and a number of taxpayers are expected to grieve their assessments, he said.

The board moved, seconded and approved the following: a liquor license renewal request from Andrie Rose Inn, a first-time outside consumption (deck only, per order of Police Chief Jeffrey Billings) application from Brook Farm Vineyards for Circa 1810, and a request for support for the Rotary Club Okemo Bike Climb on June 24.

Next, Frank Heald brought up the disposition of 8 Terrace Avenue, which Carolyn Spaulding had deeded to the town for the benefit of the fire department, reserving a life estate. She has passed away and he proposed getting it appraised and selling it to use the proceeds as requested. The board members acknowledged this was a “very special gift” and approved his proposal without a vote. Bruce Schmidt suggested a letter to the editor thanking the donor.

Next, the board entertained a request by Verizon Wireless to lease space in the town hall building for a rooftop antenna, with an area in the basement for panels. Frank Heald summed up the submitted contract and drawings saying that the antenna would be flush-mounted on the exterior rear wall and would be painted the same color as the brick. It would not be visible from Depot Street. Verizon would pay for its electricity usage, in addition to $2,000 per month and a signing bonus of $3,000, for the initial five-year term and four successive five-year terms. Verizon has made a similar request for other city-owned locations.

Heald put the question to the board: “Do we want to put a flush-mounted antenna on the side of town hall?” Bruce Schmidt objected to the provision that would lock the town in for the next 20 years if the town did not cancel the contract within the first five years. The option to cancel should be renewed after each five-year term, he said, allowing for future changes in the Select Board and other changes. After discussion and examining the drawings, the board took Heald’s suggestion to task Select Board chair Howard Barton to continue the negotiations with Verizon.

Following other routine business, Frank Heald reported on the bridge projects. He said the Pleasant Street Bridge is done and gave kudos to “sidewalk superintendents” who caught some oversights, saving significant dollars in the long term. The bridge came in under budget by $40,000, money that can be applied to emergency repairs to the Red Bridge, he said.

The Branch Brook Bridge is almost done and the project has been “relatively seamless,” he said.

The Walker Bridge closes on Saturday for 35 days, during which time a parking ban will be in effect on Depot Street and stop signs will be removed to facilitate traffic flow. The construction crews will be working weekends and some nights, he said. Schmidt asked about extra police presence to direct trucks, but Heald said he doesn’t plan to spend extra money on traffic control.

There were no questions about department head reports.

Logan Nicoll reminded everyone that the Planning Commission meets June 20 at 6 p.m. in town hall, and he hopes to have a good turnout. The May 30 school vote will affect the agenda, he noted.

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