Wise presents public health orders to Selectboard for approval

BELLOWS FALLS, Vt. – On Tuesday, Oct. 6, health officer Chuck Wise presented two public health orders at the Rockingham Selectboard meeting.

Wise explained both water and wastewater had been shut off in the single-family home at 1 Center St., making it uninhabitable. He had been working with the owners since April 2019 and over 100 bags of trash were removed last fall. He also explained that the owners of the property received the order but chose not to attend the hearing.

Wise noted that the health order was due to a significant rodent population and he presented affidavits from neighbors. The town health officers considered the property a public health hazard, ordering it cleaned of trash and debris by Nov. 1, with building and grounds to be treated by a licensed pest control service.

Chair Gaetano Putignano asked how many times Wise and Bellows Falls Fire Department Chief Shaun McGinnis had visited the property. Wise answered, “At least 100 visits.”

Putignano said, “It seems clear that we’ve exhausted all hopes of compliance.”

Lou and Susan Tomberg, owners of 7 Center St. who share half the driveway, said this had gone on “for several years.” Tomberg thanked the village for passing the Nuisance Ordinance in January of 2019, but “we need action.”

The Selectboard, as the Board of Health, passed the motion.

Putignano thanked everyone involved and said, “It’s a shame. Hopefully, we can get some forward progress in our beautiful little village in the town of Rockingham.”

Wise explained the similar health order for 66 Atkinson St. was in response to evidence the building was occupied and not due to the unsafe building ordinance from 2018.

Supporting evidence included a September 2020 yard sale sign and a “night watchman’s bunk,” raising concern from emergency responders and Village Trustees.

Village President Deborah Wright said that the week after owner Chris Glennon received the order, she was notified that two people had entered the building.

Putignano said, “As a firefighter here in this village, that’s a ‘do not enter’ building,” and if someone was inside it becomes “a public safety issue.”

The board ordered that 66 Atkinson St. be permanently secured with all windows and doors boarded by Oct. 13 and the north side property fenced and secured no later than Nov. 1.

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

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