Railroad makes plans for propane terminal

Interim municipal manager says that Green Mountain Railrad has worked cooperatively with Rockingham

BELLOWS FALLS — A mile or so north of the village, at the end of Bezanson Road, Green Mountain Railroad (GMRR) has been working on plans to locate a facility that would serve as a terminal for wholesale distribution of propane and fill a gap for wholesalers in the region, who now to go to New York or Massachusetts to load up on the fuel.

Acting Municipal Manager Chip Stearns said that, at first, all he heard were rumors, and from the start of the project, no one from the railroad had approached him to talk about GMRR's plans.

But that has now changed, Stearns said, noting that the GMRR ultimately worked closely with municipal officials and addressed their concerns.

“By design, we wanted fire and first responder safety should there be an emergency, and so we've got it covered,” he said.

“There was basically zero information except word of mouth and nothing directly from the railroad. There was no direct link of communication between the municipality and the railroad, and we were getting hearsay information,” Stearns said. “We began to look into how we could determine what authority we had over any aspect of what was taking place.”

He told the boards at public meetings that he believed that the railroad was taking taxable property on the grand list and making it untaxable.

“It happened that at one meeting. The general manager [Brent Brewer] of GMRR was there, and he stood up saying 'that's not the truth, that's not the whole truth,' and that started the dialogue,” Stearns said.

“After that meeting, [GMRR] sent [a public records] inquiry about what we had for trucks and equipment for response time, upon which information they were going to make a finding of adequate fire coverage for the facility (required by the state fire marshal). That was the only point at which the municipality could hold things up - by not providing that information,” Stearns explained.

He said he stalled right up to the end of the 72-hour deadline to comply.

But then, the “railroad contacted us and told us to disregard that request and opened a dialogue to clear the air,” Stearns said. “We have since become working partners in an amicable relationship about the process.”

He said the town and village had concerns about public safety and fire suppression, as well as rebuilding Bezanson Road to support the heavy traffic load.

“We want them to rebuild Bezanson Road and they want to do that,” said Stearns. “The town can't go out and fix it itself.”

“We have asked that they provide a plan that the railroad will pay for,” he added.

“In addition, I have recommended that they extend the water main down there and put a hydrant at that facility, and put a water cannon on their property that is pre-aimed at a predetermined target.”

A water cannon can cool tanks so they do not explode in the event of a fire.

Stearns said the ownership and maintenance of the installed water main, water cannon, and hydrant would stay with the Bellows Falls Village Corporation.

“The whole intent was to bring the water supply closer to the depot in case it was needed should there be a major catastrophe,” he said. “Firetrucks can pull up and connect to running water close to the source of the fire.”

Two residents live on Bezanson Road, Stearns said, noting that the railroad is interested in purchasing their respective properties.

While discussions continue, the GMRR plans, as well as question and answer sheets, are available at town offices, Stearns said.

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