Bellows Falls Trustees elect new village moderator

BELLOWS FALLS, Vt. – On Tuesday, Aug. 22, the Bellows Falls Trustees held their regular meeting to discuss a brief agenda that included approvals of several upcoming events, and the appointment of a town moderator.

Bellows Falls, Vt.

Town manager Scott Pickup alerted the trustees to the planned removal of the old AT&T tower on Pond Road in September. He explained that the town had attempted to find another company to take over after AT&T vacated the tower approximately two years ago, but could not, and since no one is interested in leasing the facility, Pickup said it would have to be taken down. Crews will be scheduled to come in next month, dates pending.

After a recent review of the after-action reports from the most recent crisis events, and the town’s emergency management response, Pickup said what stood out the most was the need for better advance notification. With plans to work with the village trustees, the town selectboard, and in collaboration with Saxtons River, Pickup said they were going to try out a service the state offers as an opt-in for communities, called VT-Alert. The system is used by the state and local responders to notify the public of emergency situations, such as severe weather alerts, evacuation notices, chemical spills, and more.

In the event of an emergency, “they are able to use Facebook, cellphones, and a variety of ways to contact people,” Pickup said. “Hopefully we’ll be able to do some publicity, to get more people that might be interested to be able to participate in that.”

Pickup will report back on how useful the system is, or isn’t, after a trial period. The state does not charge a fee for the service.

The trustees approved a request from resident Marta Deacon to relocate the Rosie the Riveter Garden from its current location near the Adams Grist Mill Museum, to Hettie Green Park. An homage to Vermont native “Rosie” Margaret Tidd, the heart-shaped stone carving was an effort initiated by Tidd’s daughter, lifelong Bellows Falls resident Ellen Jones, after Tidd’s death in 2019.

Pickup said the town would take care of moving the stone, and Deacon offered to tend to the rose bushes that flank the marker until they could be replanted.

Village President Paul Obuchowski announced the names of the two candidates for village moderator, Deb Wright and Dennis Hardy, and said he had distributed letters from each candidate as well as their qualifications.

James McAuliffe nominated Deb Wright, commenting, “I’ve seen Deb contribute a huge amount of time and effort in caring for this village and town over the last 10-15 years.” McAuliffe also noted, “Both of the people who submitted applications are qualified and would do an excellent job.”

When the motion did not receive a second, Jeff Dunbar made the motion to appoint Dennis Hardy to the position. Wade Masure seconded, and the board voted unanimously to appoint Dennis Hardy as the new village moderator for a term of one year.

A handful of event permits were approved, including one for the Bellows Falls Community Bike Project. On Sept. 16, an anticipated 20-50 bike riders will ride solar and electric bicycles at the corner of Henry and Atkinson streets. Also, the annual Parade of Lights through downtown Bellows Falls will once again showcase floats, trucks, cars, and other vehicles decorated with festive lights, on Dec. 9, from 5-7 p.m.

Pickup gave an update to the proposed Fire Feasibility Study, saying that after receiving $15,000 in government funds, and an additional $5,000 from Saxtons River, he was requesting $5,000 from the village before going to the town for the remaining balance. Pickup explained that the costs came in higher than the initial estimate, and the town’s request for additional funds had been denied.

Wyoming-based consulting firm AP Triton was the company recommended to conduct the study, and Pickup mentioned they were recently hired by Brattleboro to help determine the best and most efficient way to move forward after the town terminated the contract with their former EMS provider last year.

“The baseline information that comes through that we can use for analysis, comes from a national database,” stated Pickup. “They look at standards, how many pieces of fire equipment do [we] have, how many firehouses, and what is their condition. They look at our training, and our standard operating procedures, [to determine] if we are up-to-date, or behind, or if there are things we’re not doing right. Then, they look at affordability, and items that will be required going into the future, [like our] equipment replacement schedule. It’s a good opportunity for everybody to take a hard look at these things.”

The trio of boards – Rockingham Selectboard, Bellows Falls Trustees, and Saxtons River Trustees – will have time to review the findings of the study, and will “have some serious conversations and some decisions to make,” according to Pickup.

Pickup updated the trustees on ARPA fund allocation, remarking that the plan was to leverage the funds and apply for grants to aid with the expense of the repair and improvement projects in consideration. Included on the project list is a new boiler for Greater Rockingham Area Services (GRAS), renovations to the historic Rockingham Meeting House, the old Bellows Falls train station, and a new roof for the town hall.

The trustees will next meet on Tuesday, Sept. 12, at 6 p.m. Pickup told the board that they would have “the full set of financials” by then.

The joint board’s next meeting will be Sept. 26, where they will review tax sales.

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