BELLOWS FALLS, Vt. – A letter to the Vermont Attorney General’s Office concerning the Vilas Bridge and a request to use the Bellows Falls Opera House for live performances dominated the recent Rockingham Town Selectboard meeting.
On Vilas Bridge, Municipal Manager Chip Stearns said that he sent a letter to the Vermont Attorney General’s office requesting an investigation into the federal Memorandum of Understanding regarding the Vilas Bridge.
The letter included a statement requesting a review of the “significant economic and social impact to the Town of Rockingham and the Bellows Falls Village” for potential further action “by your office in conjunction with the New Hampshire Attorney General.”
Stearns has not received a formal response to his inquiry, but has discovered that neither the town nor the state was a party to that agreement. The board decided to wait until Stearns receives a response before proceeding further.
The Memorandum of Understanding document was signed in May 1994 by the Federal Highway Administration, New Hampshire Division administrator, and by the New Hampshire State Historic Preservation Officer, with agreement signed by a project development director for the New Hampshire Department of Transportation.
The bridge needs repairs, but none have been made because no entity will take responsibility for the bridge.
The board received a request for use of the Bellows Falls Opera House from David Stern of Saxtons River.
He requested that the Selectboard reconsider a decision made by the municipal manager for additional use of the facility.
Stern stated that the proposal from Main Street Arts is to do six shows on March 16, 17 and 18, 2017 and March 23, 24, and 25, 2017.
He further noted that they would require the use of the space for rehearsals and for set assembly during non-movie hours in January and February and two weeks in March. All sets would be constructed and painted off-site and assembled on the stage.
Stern described two proposals he would like the board to consider.
The first, a profit-sharing proposal, is from Main Street Arts stating that the first $1,000 is the town’s, and any amount after that is to cover expenses, and then the town and Main Street Arts will share all profit beyond that, 50/50.
The second proposal is from Charlie Hunter with a flat fee of $6,570.
Selectboard member Peter Golec noted that should the town be forced to decline a first-run movie this may result in new movies no longer being offered to the town, which will result in a significant loss of revenue for the theater.
Selectboard Chair Lamont Barnett said “this proposal would change the culture of the town, (and) the Opera House was not intended just to show movies.”
Stern stated that the concession stands at the live performances would benefit the town monetarily.
“The use of the opera house for live performances fits into the renovation of the building and connects us as a community,” Stern said.
A motion passed that the board approve the use of the Bellows Falls Opera House by Main Street Arts at a cost of $6,570, with $1 per ticket over 200 sold to go to the town, plus additional charges for cleaning and use of the lower theater if necessary.
Stearns distributed a letter from Jeff Ingram of Ingram Construction with an estimate for the exterior wall repair at the Recreation Center Building of $176,937.
Stearns is requesting the board’s authorization to have Jeff Ingram be the construction manager, with all subcontractors dealing directly with the town.
Stearns stated that the construction manager will oversee the subcontractors but will not have the authority to make decisions.
Former Village Trustee Sandy Martin suggested that lien releases be part of the contract.
A motion passed to approve Jeff Ingram as the construction manager to work directly with the municipal manager and facilitate the repair of the Rec Building at a cost of $176,937.
Laurie Rowell, attorney for Amy Robillard, informed the board that progress has been made cleaning up 38 Green St., which is now owned by the town, and the yard has been cleared and a truck has been removed from the property.
Rowell also noted that no one is allowed in the building, and there are items that Robillard wishes to remove from the interior.
She requested that Robillard be allowed to enter the building with someone from the town. Rowell is also requesting that the town pay for a storage unit for Robillard for two years to store her belongings at a cost of $3,200.
Barnett stated that a financial offer was made at the last meeting that was rejected. Barnett also noted that the board will not authorize any town employee to enter the building, as it is unsafe.
Stearns suggested that the town place a 30-yard dumpster on the property for debris that the town would most likely have to clean up eventually anyway.
A motion passed to place in an escrow account the sum of $2,100, to be used for a storage unit including taxes and insurance on the storage unit, and that all personal property must be removed from the 38 Green St. property by Sept. 30 by Amy Robillard.
The town will take ownership of all remains and no further claims will be placed on the town, and Robillard must sign all releases to enter the building, and has until Sept. 30 to remove personal items.
Stearns said that the auditors from RHR Smith were at the town hall and completed their work a day early.
Stearns said that the unrestricted town fund balance is $993,285.
“We are now about 15 to 16 percent into this fiscal year and there is nothing outstanding at this time,” he said.
Stearns reported that work began on the new Park and Ride lot, and the town would be doing fill and grading, and laying conduit and drainage pipe as the town’s required contribution to the project.
When finished, the lot will provide 47 parking spots.
Golec said that he would like to correct a comment he made at a previous meeting that Boccaccio’s was closing.
Golec stated that he has apologized to the owner, and would like to publically apologize stating that this was incorrect, and that Boccaccio’s was not closing or moving.
Stearns reminded the board that he will be on vacation starting Friday, Sept. 9 and returning Monday, Sept. 19 and will be unreachable during that time.
Stearns said that Kerry Bennett would be acting manager while he is on vacation.