Selectboard discusses moving historic machine to Riverfront Park

BELLOWS FALLS, Vt. – On Tuesday, Dec. 1, the Rockingham Selectboard discussed recycling center updates and the relocation of the International Paper machine parts.

Municipal Manager Scott Pickup explained that some customers were unhappy with the Recycling Center’s increased weighing of construction and demolition. Peter Golec said he was glad they were weighing as “It would help with revenue end.” Pickup said they were researching neighbors’ construction and demolition costs to evaluate pricing.

Development Director Gary Fox brought a proposal to move the International Paper Company machine to the Riverfront Historic Interpretive Park and to lease to Sustainable Valley Group as part of the grant and redevelopment for the Connecticut River Heritage Center. He explained in 2003 due to friable asbestos the machine was moved to the gravel pit where it currently resides.

Fox introduced historian David Deacon who wrote his dissertation on the paper industry of the Northeast. Deacon said, “Bellows Falls [would] benefit from having a memorial to the paper industry.”

Annette Spaulding said, “I scuba dive. I’m very interested in having this piece preserved. I think I have found other parts similar underwater.”

Deacon explained the big drying cylinders were the “most visually striking” and thought they dated to 1898, the year that International Paper Company was founded. He said, “This machine was used at the peak of paper production in Bellows Falls…at one time [Bellows Falls] was the largest producer of newsprint in the country.”

Deacon described this as “an untapped resource” for the town and highlighted the significance of the machine from “one of the founding mills of IPC.”

Chair Gaetano Putignano asked how they planned to move the machine. Spaulding explained a friend’s grandfather worked in the T.L. Riley building and offered to move the parts. Spaulding would pay the trucking as long as the town could help load the equipment.

Peter Golec said, “I’m glad to see it’s going to do something besides sit there and rust.”

Stefan Golec wondered what would happen to the machine if SVG did not receive grant money as planned.

Fox described the levels of interpretive exhibits that were possible – with the paper machine bolted to a concrete pad as a display outside on the interpretive trail as a worst case scenario.

The highest end use would be inside the proposed heritage center utilizing either the TLR or Wyman Flint buildings as exhibit space described in the Connecticut River Heritage Park plan.

Spaulding said, “Whether it’s the Historical Society or SVG, [the machine] should be seen and preserved.”

Putignano agreed, explaining the board was hesitant to donate the equipment to SVG.

Fox said that the town could set restrictions on the donation but explained the importance of establishing “ownership for securing access to grants and development of exhibits.” He explained that the parts would be stored in a fenced lockable area. “We all want to protect the historic asset for cultural heritage.”

Peter Golec suggested that they add, “Equipment shall be installed for a historical exhibit,” to the motion. The Selectboard approved the amended motion.

The Selectboard meetings are held on the first and third Tuesdays of each month at 6 p.m. in the Lower Theater of the Bellows Falls Opera House. The Joint Board meeting is scheduled for Dec. 29.

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