Ludlow Selectboard approved budget, hears proposed drug rehab facility

UPDATE: Due to a calculation error that increased the budget by nearly $100,000, the Ludlow FY2022 town budget must again go before the select board to be revised and re-approved before Jan. 21. Details on the revised board meeting is yet to be determined.

LUDLOW, Vt. – During the Monday, Jan. 4 meeting, the Ludlow Selectboard approved the fiscal year 2022 town budget as well as a raise for the town manager; reviewed the audit for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2020; heard updates on Black River Independent School, as well as the latest information on a drug and rehab facility being proposed at the former Fox Run Weight Control Facility.

The board approved the budget of $4,076,367.60, which is down from the previous year by nearly $6,500, basically level funding.

The board went over the town audit with Tom Telling of Telling and Hillman P.C. for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2020. Overall, the audit was overwhelmingly positive with “no issues with internal control” and an assessment that Ludlow’s town financial system is organized and working well.

Of note was a loss of $169,000 in the Ambulance Fund. An article during the upcoming town meeting will include approval of additional funds, approximately $310,000, which is needed to cover anticipated expenses for Ludlow Ambulance Service.

The board unanimously approved a 3% raise for Ludlow Municipal Manager Scott Murphy. Board Chairman Bruce Schmidt said that the Selectboard, as well as the Village Trustees, appreciate Murphy’s guidance and leadership and that he’s done a great job with town finances.

Kendra Rickerby, head of the Black River Independent School, provided a status update on the proposed changes for next year, which will include a name change to Expeditionary School at Black River. The school will be moving to an investment model and is currently recruiting corporate sponsors; hopes to double enrollment to 30 students; will continue fundraising to secure $250,000 to operation tuition free; and will be offering a 12-month, year-round flexible school schedule. The school has also forged several strategic partnerships and hopes to establish workforce-training partnerships with local businesses.

The school is housed in the former Black River High School building, which is owned by the town. Although the school enjoyed the space rent-free in their first year, they will be paying a modest rent in their second year. Details on the school can be found at www.blackriveris.org.

The Selectboard has been asked to weigh in on a recent Ludlow Development Review Board application for a drug and substance abuse facility at the old Fox Run location on Fox Lane. The facility would provide space for 40 individuals to receive residential detox treatment.

Alan Couch, a member of the Ludlow Planning Commission, spoke to the board saying that there is a need for this type of facility; but as a member of the Planning Commission, he didn’t think it was appropriate within the residential and commercial area where Fox Run is located. In other areas in town, it may be feasible.

“I understand you don’t want this in your backyard, but unfortunately this drug abuse epidemic is in our front yard and we need to address it as a community, and we need to address it as a board and would certainly appreciate input from the Selectboard,” he said.

Board Chairman Bruce Schmidt said that they will continue to follow the issue and that it was “something to start thinking about.” He felt the board may be asked to be involved providing support or resistance to the idea.

The initial DRB meeting began last month but was recessed and will continue Monday, Feb. 8 at 6 p.m. via Zoom. An agenda and Zoom meeting information may be found on the Ludlow Town website.

Arthur Smith, head of the Vermont Elder Justice Program in Windsor County, was again before the board providing information on the growing concern over elder abuse particularly during the pandemic. If anyone needs information or resources to report or protect against elder abuse in Windsor County, call their toll-free, confidential number: 866-230-0249.

The next regular Ludlow Selectboard meeting is scheduled for Monday, Feb 1 at 6 p.m.

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