Help place detention center question on the ballot

BELLOWS FALLS — The Rockingham Selectboard will meet on Thursday, Jan. 14, at 5 p.m., to finalize the articles for the March Annual Town Meeting. Among them is the Rockingham citizen-requested article to ask the question: “Shall the Voters of the Town of Rockingham allow placement of a detention center within the legal boundaries of Bellows Falls?”

As there are forces fighting against this article and the request to exercise our democratic rights as taxpaying Vermont citizens, it would be in the best interests of Rockingham residents to attend this meeting in force to see the question safely placed on the ballot.

In addition, there are concerns with the use of town attorney, as well as village attorney, to require a legal opinion on the request prior to the Selectboard vote on the article.

On the one hand, the town attorney, paid by tax dollars, is also the registered agent of Island Holdings, LLC, the property-holding company for Bellows Falls Area Development Corporation, the nonprofit corporation working within the town hall on the Liberty Mill Justice Center project.

The village attorney, on the other hand, is also the attorney for the property owner of the Chemco property. He is paid for his legal opinion through village taxes. The weaving of a significant conflict of interest is clear, once these factors are known. Who will give an opinion?

Although the players might not have intended their multifaceted relationships to seem nefarious, they are the unfortunate result of a local government that is less than open to its citizens. Saying one's door is open does not produce the same effect as presenting the facts voluntarily in open meeting to all concerned residents as statute requires: doing business before the public that they may have appropriate opportunity to comment.

Therefore, if you can, please attend the meeting in the Bellows Falls Lower Theatre, followed by a concerned citizens' meeting at 7 p.m. at Windham Antiques Center. The meeting will provide a safe space for Rockingham residents to exchange information, so that we might move beyond the fear and create a clear citizen-informed dialogue for our community's future.

A follow-up meeting Jan. 21 at 7 p.m. (location to be announced) of concerned citizens will invite Windham County Sheriff Keith Clark and other key players to create a clean, cohesive dialogue of the Liberty Mill Justice Center's future.

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