ROCKINGHAM, Vt. – One hundred and thirty-five voters checked in to consider 12 warned articles that all passed by Australian ballot at the March 6 Annual Meeting. Article 5, asking the voters to appropriate $5,382,600 to pay the indebtedness and operating expenses of the town, beginning July 1, 2017, through June 30, 2018, with $4,381,675 to be raised by taxes, passed by an overwhelming margin. A 2017 town meeting budget summary stated that the rate represents a 0.01 cent increase in the existing .9763 town rate. The tax effect on a $150,000 home is $15.00 a year.
Interim Municipal Manager Shaun O’Keefe spoke to the urgency of Article 5, commenting that the Bridge and Depot Street bridges are in dire need of replacement. He clarified that while the Bridge Street bridge might last up to ten years, the Depot Street bridge is at the end of the line. O’Keefe estimated that both bridge renovations will cost five million dollars apiece and they are looking for grants to assist in this area.
The article that elicited the most discussion was Article 6 that asked voters to raise and appropriate $396.972 for operating expenses for the support of the Rockingham Free Public Library, with $374,070 to be raised by taxes. The passage of the article raised the Library Director Celine Houlne’s salary to $67,000. Joel Love of Saxton’s River compared the libraries at Saxton’s River, Brattleboro, and Springfield, stating that those towns have larger populations than the town of Rockingham and the directors were paid less than the proposed increase to Houlne.
Love proposed an amendment, which was seconded, to reduce the amount of the library budget by $10,426, which would mean that the top-line budget would be $336,644. Villager Gary Fox stated that the salary is in line with other library directors, adding that the library has worked hard to not waste funds, so “please don’t cut their budget.” Town Attorney Ray Massucco stated that after 16 ½ years as a library trustee “we have not kept up the library budget during the last four to five years” and urged that the amendment be defeated. The amendment went to vote and was soundly defeated.
Among the other warned articles that passed: Article 6 appropriated and raised $1,750 for the support of the Woman’s Freedom Center to provide services to women and their children who are experiencing emotional, physical and/or sexual abuse and are residents of the town.
Article 7 – The following social services received $77,603: Bellows Falls Senior Center, $21,384; Green Mountain RSVP & Volunteer Center, $1,450; Meeting Waters YMCA, $5,000; Our Place, $5,000; Parks Place, $4,000; Southeastern Vermont Community Action (SEVCA), $4,770; Southeast Vermont Transit, Inc. (The Current), $3,825; Springfield Supported Housing Program, $2,500; Vermont Adult Learning, $1,350; Visiting Nurse Alliance of VT & NH, $26,024; and Youth Services, $2,300.
Article 11 – A motion made by Select Board Chair Lamont Barnett resolved that the Town of Rockingham, through the FERC relicensing process, has been presented with information on the Connecticut River. If it is shown that there is a causal relationship between the operation of the Bellows Falls Dam and/or the Wilder Dam by TransCanada Corporation or subsequent owners and the deterioration of the riverbank and attendant roads, bridges, and farmland, it is recommended that the Town of Rockingham formally request that TransCanada or subsequent owners modify current dam operations and create a mitigation fund to reimburse towns and landowners for any and all damages.
At the end of the meeting Barnett thanked Select Board member Josh Hearne, who has moved just outside the town limit to Grafton, for serving on the board for three years and said the board was lucky to have Susan Hammond as a replacement.
A complete list of the warned articles can be found by going to www.rockbf.org and clicking the Select Board tab.