Rockingham hands over TL Riley Building

On Tuesday, Oct. 18, the Rockingham Selectboard moved for a lease option, giving over site control on the TL Riley Building at 14–16 Mill Street.

ROCKINGHAM, Vt. – On Tuesday, Oct. 18, the Rockingham Selectboard moved for a lease option, giving over site control on the TL Riley Building at 14–16 Mill Street.

Sustainable Valley Group (SVG), an eligible local development corporation, requested the lease option from the Town of Rockingham to enable an application the Development Office is working on for an Environmental Protection Act (EPA) multipurpose grant.

SVG member David Bonta said there is a timeline for the grant due in November and they require thirty days for a transfer. Development Director Gary Fox explained that this has been an ongoing process since 2018. The town applied for a Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) four years ago, which was not awarded, Fox said, because of the necessary clean-up.

Fox said cleanup grants require ownership, and if the PCB assessment level is not too high, it can be cleaned up and the building restored.

Board member Elijah Zimmer said environmental testing must have been completed. Board member Bonnie North said there were studies done.

Bonta agreed, but was unsure of the PCB levels and said, “This would determine whether the building stays or goes.”

Board member Rick Cowan asked about the size of the paper machine remnants. Fox said the cylinders are big and located behind the Grist Mill in the field.

Fox explained that was the first machine that used wood pulp from rags when International Paper had 4,000 employees. Bonta added that that was when “the population [of Bellows Falls] was 3,000.”

Fox said the Connecticut River Heritage Plan included the Bellows Falls Historical Society’s (BFHS) River and Trails system. The wheels and stones would be assembled as interpretive displays outside in the park or inside the Cultural Heritage Center.

North asked who owned the rollers, to which Fox answered that it was the town. Fox said that, at the time, BFHS did not want the machines and sold Wyman Flint to SVG so they could focus on the Adams Grist Mill.

Zimmer asked, “Does SVG really have the capacity to take on the TLR building project?”

Bonta said that this goes back to 2010, and it “is all about vision and pluck…the town wouldn’t be worse if it had to be leveled.”

Zimmer was concerned about having a clear plan, but said, “If SVG thinks they are prepared, that’s great.” He asked if a private developer would be eligible for the EPA Grant.

Fox said that, in 2014 when the building was “in better shape, no one would touch it.”

Fox said this EPA grant will enable them to complete a lot of projects, and reiterated that if the PCBs are not too dense this grant can help remediate and create necessary structural improvements.

Fox said, “We guarantee it will be demolished if we don’t act on it.” He explained why the time was now; with doubled limits for grants. He said in the past $250,000 was accessible in one year, but this multipurpose grant offers up to two million and requires no match. He said, the whole formula gives access to enough funds and allows work on three buildings with clean-up, remediation, and stabilization eligibility.

Fox said, “It would be foolish not to take advantage of the opportunity to save these buildings.”

Fox explained that the town has a lot of support and “we are getting smarter around using other resources and not trying to have staff do everything.” With the work of the Bellows Falls Downtown, SVG, and BFADC providing technical and legal support and contracting where needed, he thought that made all of the difference.

Fox said this is “a once-in-a-three-generation opportunity with these kind of resources.” The board passed the motion unanimously.

The Rockingham Selectboard meetings are on the first and third Tuesdays of the month at 6 p.m. in the Lower Theater of the Bellows Falls Opera House.



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