Bellows Falls Trustees discuss ARPA funding, wastewater agreement

BELLOWS FALLS, Vt. – On Tuesday, April 11, the Bellows Falls Village Trustees discussed ARPA funding, and a new water/wastewater agreement.

Municipal Manager Scott Pickup said both water and wastewater departments will inventory all lines, with the end goal of a new agreement between the customers of Westminster Districts and the Village of Bellows Falls.

Bellows Falls, Vt.

Pickup said, related to billing the districts, “we spend more time with these customers who are non-residents than any other customer in our system.” Pickup suggested a new document to eliminate third-party billing that reflects the bond change and new rates.

Village President Deborah Wright said the village was receiving payments from North Westminster, albeit slowly, and was concerned with more customers who might not pay bills. Trustee Stefan Golec said customers “do not need to agree with a new agreement, but must abide by it.”

Trustee Wade Masure clarified that customers would now pay Bellows Falls. He agreed they might prefer to pay their bills directly. Pickup said the attorney would draw up a termination letter for the district and prepare the new agreement for billing in August.

Resident Jamey Berrick asked if customers “are aware that bills are not being paid in a timely fashion.” Wright said the customer was the district, so the village did not know those individual customers to contact.

The trustees reviewed suggestions for the $886,000 awarded to Bellows Falls in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds. All five members weighed in on their top three votes, and considered favorites from the public meetings in 2022.

Each village department submitted capital project ideas. Those rated highest included a biosolid storage for the wastewater department, solar projects for the water department, an elevator at the public safety building at 170 Rockingham Street, and phase II of the upgraded cloud system for the police department.

Trustee Jeff Dunbar suggested looking at items to eliminate from the list. Masure suggested letting go of the broadband and community expectations. Dunbar pointed out that two out of four board members were willing to eliminate supporting community expectations. He supported 25% of the ARPA funds for community supported projects, reminding board members, “we represent our community…as a board we should be encouraging as much engagement as possible.” The Greater Rockingham Area Services (GRAS) facility at 1 Hospital Court was supported by the community, and the board appointed $50,000.

Dunbar proposed using a portion of ARPA funding for a two-to-one match of the town’s funding for sidewalks. He said “this is an opportunity to leverage the money, [and show] we are willing to participate and this is a priority for village and Rockingham residents.”

Trustee James McAuliffe said sidewalks are the town’s responsibility, and suggested they talk to the selectboard. Pickup said this would be the time to discuss this with the town, because there was funding available for sidewalks in the upcoming paving contract. He acknowledged, “We have not invested in sidewalks on or near to the level as we should.”

The Village Trustees meet on the second and fourth Tuesdays of every month, at 6 p.m., in the Lower Theater of the Bellows Falls Opera House. The next tri-board meeting is on Tuesday, May 30.

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