BF Trustees discuss community facilities grant

BELLOWS FALLS, Vt. – On Tuesday, Dec. 13, the Bellows Falls Village Trustees discussed a United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Community Facilities Grant for fire safety equipment, including radios and repeaters for the Bellows Falls Police Department (BFPD) and Town of Rockingham Highway.

Municipal Manager Scott Pickup explained the original application was initiated in 2021, but due to federal staff turnover the application sat unresolved. Pickup said they had a new grant coordinator and now their current equipment must be upgraded to meet USDA standards.

He said the new repeater and radios will give multiple operators the ability to find the same frequency; crucial with mutual aid when multiple departments need to coordinate operations.

Pickup said Bellows Falls is eligible to apply based on federal income requirements; 60% of village residents are considered low to moderate income households (LMI).

The total cost is projected at $103,000 and includes 31 radios, three repeaters, antennas, licensing, and installation.

The Village Corporation was asked to approve two resolutions: to apply for the USDA grant of $50,000 ,and commit match of $18,833, and pay $34,367 for 16 radios, one repeater, and two antennas for the BFPD.

Pickup said due to eligibility requirements, the Town of Rockingham and the BFPD must pay 100% for their departments equipment; the town will be asked at next week’s selectboard meeting to commit $34,000. He said all of the department repeaters share a tower and by coordinating this project they will save on labor costs.

Trustee Stefan Golec suggested using ARPA funding.

Trustee James McAuliffe said looking at the Town and Villages of Saxtons River and Bellows Falls, he wanted to know “who is getting what and who is paying what.” He asked what Saxtons River was contributing for the radios they were receiving.

Development Director Gary Fox explained there were two parts to this project; what was eligible for the grant and everything else.

He said all equipment and radios for the Bellows Falls Fire Department was eligible, the BFPD would pay for their equipment and installation, and Saxtons River was not eligible for grant funding. The town equipment fund has an interdepartment agreement which covers all fire safety equipment for the Town of Rockingham.

Fox said the expected match for the village included labor, fees, and inspections that were not eligible by the grant. He said the town would offset the village commitment, but they needed the village to be the grant applicant.

Village President Deborah Wright said the motion should be clarified with additional language; the village’s commitment of $18,833, ‘will be reimbursed by the Town of Rockingham upon successful completion of the grant.’

McAuliffe said “thanks to the village we get $50,000 and we pay the full share…the village is subsidizing this transaction.”

Pickup said the only reason they can apply for the grant is the village’s eligibility. Fox said the police and highway are a separate project, but to save on licensing and labor the repeaters are being installed together.

Pickup said the current repeaters are obsolete and this process highlights the challenge of maintaining three departments.

Trustee Wade Masure said there are three repeaters; BFFD, Rockingham Highway, and BFPD.

The village moved unanimously to apply for the grant and commit funding of $34,367 for the BFPD and match of $18,833 to be reimbursed by the town.

The Bellows Falls Village Trustees will not meet again in December, the next meeting is Jan. 10 at 6 p.m. in the Lower Theater of the Bellows Falls Opera House. The next tri-board meeting will be on Tuesday, Jan. 31 at 6 p.m.

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