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Voters reject BFMS renovation project, 474-471

Town, school budgets approved; Golec, DiBernardo return to Selectboard

ROCKINGHAM—After a year of study and much lobbying by school officials, voters rejected a bond issue for a proposed $10.5 million renovation of the Bellows Falls Middle School by a mere three votes.

By a vote of 474-471, the measure went down to defeat by Australian ballot on Tuesday.

In the selectboard race, incumbent Peter Golec narrowly defeated Lamont “Monte” Barnett, 480-427, for a three-year seat. Incumbent Ann DiBernardo and newcomer Josh Hearne were the top vote-getters for the two, one-year seats. DiBernardo received 481 votes, while Hearne, the owner of PK’s Pub, received 452. They bested Lance Allen (357 votes) and Deborah Wright (298 votes).

Jim “Jiggs” McAuliffe knocked off incumbent Janice Mitchell-Love for a three-year seat on the Bellows Falls Union High School Board, 460-408.

In the race for the Rockingham School Board, Chad Illingworth defeated Annie Guyon, 485-390, to win a three-year seat, while Joe Brissette beat Suzanne Groenewold, 461-346, for a two-year seat, and Carol Blackwood beat Bill Metcalfe for a one-year seat, 488-296.

Incumbent Steven Fuller retained his three-year seat as Library Trustee. Fuller finished with 623 votes, well ahead of Deborah Wright (488), Laure Senes (462) and Sherri Arvin (385).

The $9.3 million budget for the Rockingham School District was approved by a 599-345 vote. The budget represents a $68,000 increase over the current fiscal year, or less than 1 percent.

The $7.1 million that is Rockingham’s share of the Bellows Falls Union High School budget also passed, 602-334, and the town’s $3 million share of the River Valley Technical Center budget was approved, 604-322.

At the town and school meeting on Monday night, voters took about an hour to okay a $5.12 million town budget for the 2012 fiscal year.

The Selectboard received authority to spend up to $291,000 for a sidewalk plow, and voters approved the purchase of a new pump and filter system for the town pool, a replacement salt shed at the town garage, and a drive-on scale for the recycling center,

The $288,425 annual budget for the Rockingham Free Public Library was also approved, as was the library’s request for an additional $30,000 for capital expenses.

Finances and the BFMS renovation plan dominated discussion during the school portion of the meeting, as voters spent more than three hours talking about how nearly $607,000 in surplus school funds should be used.

The Rockingham School Board requested that $97,000 be used to offset potential tax increases for the fiscal 2013 budget, and a similar amount for fiscal 2014.

The board also asked to use $50,000 from the surplus for a new school bus, and $35,000 for heating and ventilation repairs at the Central and Saxtons River elementary schools, as well as using surplus money to buy new computer equipment at the elementary schools, and to demolish both the Saxtons River school garage and a building the district just bought on 22 George St.

All the school board’s requests were approved.

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Originally published in The Commons issue #90 (Wednesday, March 2, 2011).

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