Selectboard discusses the Bellows Falls garage, TL Riley complex

BELLOWS FALLS, Vt. – On Tuesday, Sept. 3, Rockingham Selectboard heard updates from Windham & Windsor Housing Trust and the Brattleboro Development Credit Corporation and approved requests for Gaskill Road residents and the TL Riley complex.

Christy Betit, Pipeline and Pathways coordinator of the Brattleboro Development Credit Corporation, presented strategies for high school graduates to succeed and remain in the area. Betit mentioned about half of all graduates leave school without a plan. From workshops to a reality fair – where students choose a career, get a mock paycheck, and learn to pay bills and budget – the BDCC works with Southern Vermont Economic Development Strategy to develop a robust economy in the Windham County region. SeVEDS receives funding from the town.

Selectboard Chair Peter Golec asked if the schools were better preparing students for after graduation. BDCC was working with the schools to implement career and finance education into the students’ language arts and math classes. Gaetano Putignano asked if the programs have been in place long enough to gather success rates, and BDCC mentioned that there would be data available in September of 2020.

Elizabeth Bridgewater and Peter Paggi of Windham & Windsor Housing Trust presented the Selectboard with information regarding the recently purchased Bellows Falls Garage on Rockingham Street. Plans at the location overlooking the river will contribute to the revitalization of downtown. The design offers retail space on the sidewalk, a community terrace on the roof, nine onsite parking spots, and 26 new apartments – five efficiency, 19 one-bedroom, and two two-bedroom apartments. The project is already in Phase II of the environmental assessment. Paggi explained that a worst case scenario will mean construction that has already been planned for radon mitigation.

Development Director Gary Fox requested approval from the Selectboard to apply for a $300,000 grant from the Vermont Community Development program for the stabilization of the TL Riley buildings, located at 14 and 16 Mill St., with an additional $40,000 grant toward the overall plan for those properties. Municipal Manager Wendy Harrison stated that the two grants would be combined in one grant application and there is historical value to the complex, which comprises both an original canal wall and the founding of International Paper Company in 1898.

Fox also noted that a separate grant for $33,000 from the Windham Regional Planning Commission could cover the town’s match for the project. Future plans involve renovation and revitalization of the property to include a heritage center and office and retail space.

The Selectboard unanimously passed the motion to adopt the resolution.

Rockingham residents of Gaskill Road requested help from the town’s Highway Department if they could change the classification to a Class 3 road. Currently it is a Class 4 and four families combine resources to maintain the road. They would provide the necessary upgrades and turn around, but ask that the town maintain it once the classification has changed. Everett Hammond estimated an increase of roughly $5,000 to the highway department’s budget for the added 790 feet of roadway. Susan Hammond made the motion that after the work has been completed and classification changed, the town of Rockingham would maintain the road. The motion passed 4 to 1 with Peter Golec voting no.

The next Selectboard meeting is Tuesday, Sept. 17 at 6 p.m. in the Lower Theater of the Opera House.

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