Bellows Falls Trustees consider development director as full-time position

BELLOWS FALLS, Vt. – On Tuesday, Dec. 8, the Village Trustees discussed the Bellows Falls Wastewater Department and the proposed full-time position for Development Director Gary Fox.

Municipal Manager Scott Pickup explained that the Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition, or SCADA, software system is “fairly basic” and in order to support specific alarms the wastewater department had needed to upgrade fiber. This will enable isolation of specific alarm systems, eliminating multiple alarms and saving man hours.

Pickup explained that backup alarms were related to the wearing of screws that grind grit. The added material was “wearing out the equipment more rapidly.” The screws were nearing their 10-year life, and Pickup recommended they be replaced, the three screws cost $15,000.

James McAuliffe said, “The public [is] entitled to a complete explanation on our spending,” and reminded Pickup of the multi-million dollar cost they paid to upgrade the facility. He wanted to ensure they offer “the best service we can provide for our customers.”

Chief Operator Rob Wheeler was on vacation, but Pickup said the upgrades would result in a dramatic drop of overtime hours.

Also on the agenda, Pickup proposed the development director become a full-time position. He explained that Fox’s projects were becoming more complicated with more layers of grant applications. “Gary’s working more than part-time hours.”

Pickup explained that currently Fox was working on development grants with four to five sources for redevelopment of the island, which would generate $3-5 million of outside money, income, and opportunity.

He said they proposed splitting Fox’s time and salary between the town and village and said, “The timing is right.”

Village President Deborah Wright reminded Pickup that the village was not yet in budget season.

McAuliffe said, “I’m a fan of Gary Fox,” but had an issue with the village sharing the cost of Fox’s salary. He agreed anything Fox worked on would benefit the town and fully supported the Selectboard’s decision, but said this is “clearly a town function.”

Jeff Dunbar said, “Development was where [Bellows Falls] needed to be moving.”

Wade Masure was interested in collecting more information on potential benefits compared to costs.

Wright said, “I would like to see more data…on village benefits.” She said they will discuss this more in February, but preferred Fox’s salary stay with the town.

Finance Director Shannon Burbela explained that this year Fox had done more grant writing for the village and currently was working on $70,000 in grants for village reimbursements. Burbela clarified the village would pay the difference to make him full-time, one quarter, while the town would continue paying three quarters of his salary.

The Village Trustee meetings are held on the second and fourth Tuesdays in the Lower Theater of the Bellows Falls Opera House at 6 p.m. The Joint Board meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, Dec. 29. Meetings are available by Zoom on FACT TV.

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