BELLOWS FALLS—The only surprise at the annual Village Meeting last week was that both the bond votes passed.
Voters approved a $10.5 million bond for renovations to the Bellows Falls Middle School, 639-574.
In the other vote, for the Rockingham Free Public Library, a $2,957,000 bond for renovations was also approved, 689-511.
The library’s event sign on the sidewalk in front of the library after last Tuesday’s election read simply, “Renovations thank you.”
Library Director Celina Houlne’s years-long efforts were answered by a faithful public, who are using the library more than ever in the current economic downturn, including job searches on the library’s heavily used computers.
The renovations will let more of the library’s four levels will be available for community use.
Tim Doherty of the BFMS Renovations Committee said that he is happy with the outcome on the school bond vote.
“We were able to give people more time to understand and consider the options [following the Rockingham Annual Town Meeting],” he said. “I think they really saw that this is the best time to make this choice.”
Doherty said that the town will have to wait 30 days before it begins the paperwork to access the bond, and he expressed his anxiety around rumors that those who opposed the BFMS bond would file a petition to put it to a vote for a third time.
“We’ll lose the money,” he said. “Right now, we’re first in line to get the [$10.5 million].”
“If a [re-vote] petition is filed, we’ll either lose the money altogether, or be pushed to the bottom of the list, and get what’s left over [after other municipal bonds].” He added that the 1.5-percent interest rate the bond stands at now would go up to 5 percent if there is a delay.
Doherty said that he is on “pins and needles” until the 30 days have passed. But, he said, “The voters have spoken, and I think they understand that there will never be a better time to do this, and that this is the best option available to the kids and their parents.”
He admits that his 3½-year stint chairing the renovations committee has “sort of burnt” him out, and that he is looking forward to being on the sidelines “looking on.” But he expressed a desire to “see the project through” to completion.
“The kids are basically going to get a new school with all the modern upgrades,” he said. “You can’t beat that for the price.”
He said that after his own kids got through school, he became involved in the renovations committee “to give back to the community” that educated his kids.
“It’s a nice school, and I felt I had a moral obligation to follow this through and see it done,” he said.
A new eight-member construction committee will be picked, three to four of which will be citizens from the community.
“There needs to be a balance of input from experts, as well as those whose children will be attending the school,” he said.
There will be a public meeting on Thursday, May 26, at 5 p.m., at the Middle School to begin the process of deciding who will serve on the construction committee to fulfill the voters’ wishes.
In uncontested Village elections last Tuesday, Lance Allen was voted Trustee president, and two new members come on board: Deborah Wright and Colin James.
Michael Harty continues as village moderator. Kerry Bennett takes on the village clerk position in addition to her duties as executive assistant to the town manager, and Donna Harty continues as village treasurer. Kate Aldrich becomes the commissioner of the Mary Jane Arms fund.
Voters also approved an amendment to add an additional $36,450 to the $1.69 million budget for fiscal year 2012, following a motion by resident Dennis Harty to return full-time staffing to the Bellows Falls Fire Department.
The motion passed, 42-23.
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