Select Board discusses solutions for speeding in downtown Bellows Falls

Select Board
Rockingham Seal. Photo provided.

ROCKINGHAM, Vt.– The Rockingham Select Board meeting, held in the Lower Theater of the Bellows Falls Opera House, was called to order Tuesday, Nov. 7, 2017 by Select Board Chair Susan Hammond. First matter on the agenda, presented by Zoning Administrator Chuck Wise, was a request for a support letter to be submitted by Nov. 17, 2017, regarding a grant through Windham regional commission to update the funding of the town plan energy chapter. The WTC has received funding to assist three towns with the development of town plan energy elements that are consistent with the provisions of Act174. The grant provides substantial deference on all large-scale energy projects. Wise said, “There is a need to synchronize when there is a lack of energy. Solar and wind are the real headliners.”

The grant enhancement will give the town plan regulatory level guidance with the Vermont Public Utility Commission. Ann DiBernardo agreed with the statement and made a motion to pass Wise’s request. The motion was passed unanimously. A completed energy element draft is required as a condition to the grant and shall be submitted by August 2018.

In addition to the grant, Gary Fox from the Sustainable Valley Group presented the Board with a request for a support letter regarding a Windham County Renewable Energy Grant for a 14 KW rooftop PV solar installation for 30 Island Street, in Bellows Falls. Sustainable Valley Group has secured an agreement with the Department of Labor to hire their applicable recruits for the project.

The grant application requires a letter from the Select Board indicating compliance with the town plan. The PV system supplies power to the business incubator in order to reduce the cost of electricity. The project is anticipated to cost $50,000. A 10 percent deposit is required to initiate ordering the equipment, 60 percent upon delivering the equipment to the site and agreed upon installation dates, and 30 percent balance is due upon commissioning of the system. USA Solar agrees to donate an in-kind match of $25,000. This matches the $25,000 Windham County Renewable Energy Project Grant awarded to Sustainable Valley Group. The motion was passed.

Speeding in downtown Bellows Falls has been an issue with recent incidents of pedestrians hit by cars in the crosswalks – a recent incident happening the night before the Nov. 7 meeting on Center Street. Signage has been placed downtown to regulate the speed of traffic. Shane O’Keefe, Municipal Manager said, “We have four and we are looking to purchase eleven more.”

Chair Susan Hammond agreed saying, “That is a great idea, especially with the snow season coming upon us.”

A suggestion was made by an audience member to increase the wattage of the bulbs to be placed in school zones and in crosswalks. She mentioned, “Maybe consider the different textures defuse the lighting.”

On the same grounds it was suggested that the tree near the Canal house be removed in order to see the light placed at that location. The Board agreed that was a matter to discuss further with the Tree Ordinance Committee. Board Member Cass Wright said that in addition to the speeding and lighting issue, he has witnessed a recent situation with an oversized load truck traveling through town. “The whole ground shook.”

Stefan Golec motioned to finalize a load limit, place signage stating the max limit for thru traffic, and work on enforcement. The motion was passed.

The board agreed upon keeping the insurance policy for 2018 with Blue Cross Blue Shield. The increase of the policy brought the budget up 9.5 percent, however the budget was allotted for 10 percent. O’Keefe commented, “We are in good shape.”


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