Select Board hears from BRAIN

LUDLOW, Vt. – After the call to order, the Select Board approved minutes from the previous meeting with a minor amendment, then moved quickly to a presentation by the Black River Area Innovative Network, aka BRAIN, a grassroots organization of parents and other community members that has formed to explore ways to keep Black River H.S. open in the face of the state mandate to consolidate districts under Act 46.

Ludlow Town Hall. Photo provided.

Several members of BRAIN took turns addressing the board. They provided a letter from the Vermont tax commissioner and a map of towns showing the merger status of towns throughout Vermont. They read from an open letter they are sending to Vermont legislators questioning the wisdom of Act 46, which is turning out to be “damaging” to dozens of towns in Vermont and reversing the good work to date of many districts. The date of May 30 is looming, when Ludlow and Mt. Holly voters will vote whether to disband Union 39 and unify with the new Mill River district, at which time Black River H.S. will shut its doors. BRAIN asks for a year’s postponement of that vote, to look at how to keep the school open and make it more innovative.

The BRAIN delegation listed many of the negative impacts on the town, from loss of prime family time, stresses on kids and families, and losses to local businesses and the workforce. The “narrow view” of Ludlow is that it’s a gold town, “flowing with cash,” and that is “absolutely not true.” Many small businesses depend on the local community here.

It was noted that other communities in the country have also suffered because of school closures. Black River H.S. has an undeserved poor reputation, because $16 million in local education funds have been siphoned off under Act 60 to improve other schools. The intent is not to begrudge other schools, but fairness is an issue, it was stated.

Select Board member Howard Barton, Jr. expressed at some length his support for BRAIN and its mission on many levels, saying people are going to move out to follow the schools. “We help out enough, we have to stand up to the state sometime,” he said. There was no opposition voiced by the other board members.

An audience member spoke up, noting the negative perception of Black River H.S. and stating, “What you guys are doing is great.” Many of the school board members no longer have kids in school and don’t know what the school is doing, she opined.

In other agenda items, the board moved, seconded and accepted a bid from Casella Waste Management of Rutland for single-sort recycling and bids from Benson’s Chevrolet for a 1-ton truck and Viking Cives for a 1-ton truck body and equipment.

The board took up liquor license applications, including outside consumption, for Outback LLC and Tom’s Loft Tavern. Moved, seconded and approved for Tom’s Loft Tavern and Outback LLC, on condition they meet their obligations to the town and village of Ludlow.

Town Manager Heald updated the board on the bridge projects. He reported that the Pleasant St. Extension bridge was poured last Friday, the approaches will be done this week, guardrails will be on Monday or Tuesday next week depending on weather, and he anticipates opening Wednesday, May 10. The job is running two or three days late because of spalling that was noticed on the upstream pier and a problem with the upstream abutment was noted also, which required repairs. He remarked that the bridge must have been originally only one lane, as it was constructed in two sections with different materials and abutments.

The 100-103 bridge construction began today (May 1), and is scheduled to close May 10. The official state detour is “way around,” although some residents have figured out closer detours via Rod and Gun Club Road via Buttermilk Falls Road or Commonwealth Avenue via the Cross Road. Heald has been advised against signage on the unofficial detours. The town has also talked about a daytime emergency route to provide to the state. Anticipated the bridge will be passable quickly.

Walker Bridge is on schedule to close completely on June 9 and will be one-lane beginning June 1. Town Manager Heald has asked for the Main Street-Depot Street to become the primary detour.

Highway Foreman Ron Tarbell described the paving job on Buttermilk Falls Road and Brooks Road. Buttermilk Falls Road will be shimmed and paved on the lower section, and the middle section will be reclaimed as far as the upper section. Culverts have been changed on the whole road. Mr. Tarbell does not think dust would be a problem. Brooks Road will be reclaimed its entire length. No Select Board action was required at this time.

Regarding the Route 100/103 intersection, it was moved, seconded and approved to accept the signalization as proposed and also the designation of the north exit of Locust Hill Road as “right turn only.” The work on the intersection is anticipated to start this fall. It is not concurrent with the bridge work, since different VTrans departments are involved.

The board moved, seconded and passed the Killington Sports Car Club Hill Climb request.

There were no questions or comments on the department head reports.

The next meeting is set for Monday, June 5, 2017.

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