BFOH to raise concession prices, RHM and GMP town projects

ROCKINGHAM, Vt. – On Wednesday, Aug. 15, the Rockingham Town Selectboard held its annual meeting at the historic Rockingham Meeting House, at 6 p.m. There was no Zoom attendance option, but the meeting was recorded by FACT TV and can be viewed on their website,

Rockingham, Vt.

Town Manager Scott Pickup reported on paving projects, and announced that Rockingham will begin to share planning and zoning administration with the towns of Weathersfield and Windsor. “It’s a contract we’re going to try, and we’ll let you know as this progresses, how [it] is working.”

Pickup requested the board appoint to the planning commission Dalila Hall, for a term of three years. The motion carried, with Hall to serve through June 30, 2026. Hall introduced herself at the meeting, saying she was a resident of Bellows Falls, and a former zoning administrator for South Burlington.

The board appointed Hayden Smith to the Rockingham Conservation Commission. A northern New England project associate for Trust for Public Land (TPL) and staff member for TPL’s recent initiative, Gen Now, Smith has engaged the community on multiple fronts. Prior to working with TPL, Smith received a bachelor’s degree in environmental studies, with a minor in wildlife biology, from the University of Vermont.

Green Mountain Power’s Franklin Austin was in attendance to request a pole agreement Right of Way Permit Amendment to tie two circuits together, a continuation of the project connecting Westminster to Chester. “The amendment begins near the post office, and terminates at the intersection of Pleasant Valley and Corey Hill Road,” Austin reported.

The request includes replacing old poles with newer, taller poles that are the current standard, requiring a need for coordinated communication between all service providers (V-Tel, Comcast, and GMP) getting involved.

Board member Elijah Zimmer reiterated his concerns about the impact that the spacer cables will have within the historic downtown district of Saxtons River. Admitting the new cables create “greater resiliency,” Zimmer went on to call them “intrusive,” and “an eyesore.” He asked GMP to consider using traditional cables along the ¼ mile stretch of Main Street.

Austin explained that the new technology creates a smaller footprint and lowers the risk of tree limbs taking down cabling, since the cables are placed higher.

After some discussion, the amendment passed, and GMP was approved to do the work.

At the request of Selectboard Chair Peter Golec, the board voted to approve the appointment of Gaetano Putignano, Deborah Wright, and Jonathan Wright, to serve on the social services review committee for a one-year term. Golec said the committee’s role would be to receive and review requests, then present their recommendations to the board for final decisions.

The board approved an amendment to the Closing, Assumption, and Priority Agreement for the Bellows Falls Garage project, to close out the final phase of funding. Pickup stated this was part of the grant pass-through funding, and needed the board’s approval just as an agency who had some financial interest in the project. No additional action or funding from the town was required.

Charlie Hunter from the Bellows Falls Opera House (BFOH) took the floor to report that they’d had a “decent year,” but recommended raising some rates. Pickup mentioned the consensus was that the price of admission would stay the same, as that seems to be an important concern of the community. However, Pickup said, “Charlie [extensively] reviewed the profitability of the concessions stand and [we] determined that it should be more of a profit-generating entity than it is currently. There is a set of recommendations to raise some of our concession prices.”

Pickup also pointed to the recent investments made by the town to the facility, including a new digital lighting package, and other enhancements for live shows and events. “Charlie felt it would be beneficial to raise our rental rates to reflect those investments, now that people are getting a more modern and up-to-date facility.”

“I would suggest that, across the board, we raise the concession prices by $1 on each item,” said Hunter. “That is still cheaper, by far, than every other movie theater in the area.” Hunter added he may recommend raising admission prices next year, from $6 to $7.

In terms of facility rental, Hunter said BFOH is now a “really good auditorium,” and there is no reason to undercharge outside renters. He recommended raising fees from $700 to $750 during the week, and to $900 for weekend rentals, saying they would still not be close to getting priced out of the market.

Board member Rick Cowan was pleased to announce that the town had received a $7,500 VTrans Safety Grant, and the walk bike committee was now considering paint color options to paint the sidewalk from the American Legion to Walgreens. However, as Cowan said, “The color remains a big issue. Red, green, yellow, purple…”

Chambers described the green option allowed by the state as “horrendous. That’s the VOT approved color for shared use. It’s pretty awful.”

Zimmer asked that the downtown design committee be given say in the choice.

Coordinator for the Rockingham Historic Preservation Commission Walter Wallace expressed his delight at being able to attend a selectboard meeting at the historic meeting house, “a very important part of the community.”

Wallace presented an update on the Save America’s Treasures Grant (SATG) and Historic Preservation Project (HPP), reporting that they are moving forward with the project information form which is to be submitted to the National Parks Service. “The purpose is to identify more carefully and thoughtfully the scale and scope of the project in somewhat greater detail than what they have before them,” explained Wallace.

Wallace said they were in the process of taking recommendations from the Historic Structure Report, to outline a three-year timeline for the restoration project. The first year, 2024, Wallace said, “will be the heavy lifting, literally. Literally, lifting up the building,” detailed Wallace. This addresses issues with drainage, and allows for installation of a 5-foot frost wall. Windows will be removed, and the original, 1790s windows will be restored.

During the second year, the building “envelope” would be improved, including sheathing and clapboard restoration on the exterior, and interior plaster and woodwork repairs.

“So,” Wallace stated, “by the third year we’ll have a good strong foundation, good drainage, a good, solid roof. We’ll have a good, sealed envelope for the building, so, [leading] up to the Fourth of July of 2026, anticipating the 250th year of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, we will be doing touch-up work, the painting, and cleanup of the surfaces and woodwork to the interior.” Some funding is in place, but Wallace said there would be more fundraising as the project moved forward.

Pickup reported on the Community Recovery & Revitalization Program (CRRP) Grant for Imtec Lane, Spencer Drive, and Industrial Drive repair and improvement. The surrounding steep slopes and ongoing drainage issues have had major impact on the site, where, Pickup noted, Rockingham’s largest employers are located. The town is working on grant funding, and Pickup said the railroad is very interested in any improvements there because tracks had been washed out previously due to a blocked culvert.

An upgraded culvert was installed, which helped improve drainage this year, but a long-term plan needs to be put into place, according to Pickup’s report. Betsy Thurston, who has been working on the grant applications with the town, reported the total project breakdown to be $1,982,000, with 20% funded through CRRP. If successful with the additional grant request, Pickup said the town could handle “impervious surfaces, steep slope erosion, and stormwater mitigation properly.” Pickup also stated that the Industrial Park employers had been investing heavily in clean-up and repair with their own money, and had been very cooperative. Pickup emphasized that it was in the town’s best interest to keep these companies in Rockingham and support any further expansions.

Golec reminded everyone that taxes are due on Aug. 24.

The Selectboard will next meet on Sept. 19, and will return to two meetings per month in October, on the first and third Tuesdays.

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