Rockingham receives first round of Covid-relief funds

BELLOWS FALLS, Vt. – On Wednesday, Sept. 1, the Rockingham Selectboard discussed Covid-19 relief funds and other regional grants.

The town has received the first round of eligible coronavirus state and local fiscal relief funds of $154,000. Municipal Manager Scott Pickup said the second round of funding would be $286,000. The town was eligible for additional funding of $143,000 this year. Overall the town would receive between $440,000 to $500,000 in funding for Covid-related expenses.

Pickup explained that the funding would be segregated from other general fund revenues and the tracking of expenses and revenues would be different.

He said there was concern with cybersecurity, and they were working on financial controls to prevent electronic transfer scams. Pickup said, “We want to make sure that we have that extra level of protection.”

Pickup also announced that the town had received a grant for the Bellows Falls Opera House. Development Director Gary Fox had applied for funding on lighting upgrades, which included digitizing and theater height lighting. Pickup said the grant would help address safety concerns with emergency lighting enhancements.

Fox sent a letter of intent for an application for the Vermont Outdoor Recreation Economic Collaborative Grant, which would help fund community recreation programs. Fox said the town must be invited to apply for the grant and the letter was the first step to receive funding.

The VOREC grants are a minimum of $50,000, and Fox said, “[As] part of the whole vision [the grant] will fund administration, programming, design, and equipment purchases.”

Working with the Connecticut River Conservancy, the grant funding could provide paddling equipment, rentals and storage, and river access with a kayak ramp and dock. The town would be eligible to partner with other communities on CRC’s Connecticut River Paddlers Trail, offering opportunities for paddlers to explore the Connecticut River from the U.S. border with Canada to the Long Island Sound.

Fox added that the town was also applying for the Enhancement of Recreation Stewardship and Access grant, which would fund expanded trail construction from the Riverfront Park trail to the Liberty Mill while adding wayfinding signs. Fox said the two grants would work in conjunction.

Bonnie North asked where the dock and ramp would be located and how staffing would be provided.

Fox said the funding would provide “assessing appropriate spots and the architectural design [of dock and ramp]” while adding to the ease and convenience of river recreation.

According to Fox, the town is partnering with the CRC, Saxtons River Trail Alliance, Windham Regional Commission, Great Falls Regional Chamber of Commerce, Bellows Falls Downtown Development Alliance, Bellows Falls Historical Society, Bellows Falls Community Bike Project, Rockingham Recreation, Rockingham Arts Museum Project, Bald Hill Conservation Project, Sustainable Valley Group, and Windham County Trails Alliance.

He added that the enhanced river access would “help hook visitors into the downtown,” and we could partner with merchants on the rental programs. As a piece of the project, administration funding would be included in the grant.

Pickup noted that if the town was selected, “It’s a nice enhancement… We are trying to draw people to the waterfront.” He added that in part of the town planning “We are looking at ways to enhance the canal and river” while adding recreational opportunities.

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

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