Thursday January 31, 2013

BELLOWS FALLS -- The owner of the Island Street auto shop ravaged by a fire earlier in the month will have to pay $425.27 less than he originally expected in taxes this year.

The Board of Abatement met before a joint meeting of the Rockingham Selectboard and the Bellows Falls Village Board of Trustees on Tuesday, and there was a unanimous decision to abate $336.91 in town taxes and $88.36 in village taxes.

Bob Blodgett ran an auto shop called Blodgett Auto out of a building at 10 Island St. until a massive blaze was ignited when some gas was accidentally spilled during a fuel pump on a van on Jan. 2. The section of the building Blodgett rented from a Washington state landlord was devastated.

According to Bellows Falls Lister Camilla Roberts, the business met the criteria for abatement because the fire rendered the entire property useless until an extensive investment is made to restore it. The listers consider the land value to have been reduced to only a "developable" status.

The value was $81,000 before the fire and $26,000 afterward, a 68-percent reduction of the original value.

During the joint meeting, the boards voted to approve the revised FY2014 proposed budget. Passage of Article 5 of the Town Warrant means voters would decide on a total expense budget of $5,023,556, with $3,727,305 to be raised by taxes.

The boards also voted to approve and sign the entire Town Warrant. It will have 13 articles.


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In other business:

-- Guy Payne and Gary Fox addressed the boards to talk about the importance of the Vermont Home Energy Challenge, which was launched this month as a one-year effort to boost the number of homes completing energy efficiency improvements in the Green Mountain State.

-- Bonnie Anderson, who lives on Canal Street, spoke to the boards about an alternative to the downtown guest parking permits. She said guests of downtown residents must purchase a $10 permit to park in any of the town lots overnight, whether for one night or an entire month.

She said this is inconvenient and suggested allowing residents two free permits per year. She said this would prevent residents having to go to town hall every time a visitor stays and could save the town the money it costs to print and laminate the permits.

She also said it is good for tourism because any money the guest does not pay for parking likely will be spent on a downtown business. Anderson said she too tends to spend more money in The Square when she has friends come to visit.

The boards decided to put the issue on the agenda for the next joint meeting, which is slated for Tuesday, April 30. Rockingham Selectboard Chairman Tom MacPhee said the winter parking season is nearing an end and no new policy could be implemented before then.

-- Municipal Manager Tim Cullenen said he had a progress meeting regarding the Rockingham Free Public Library earlier in the day. Baybutt Construction Co. had been hired as a general contractor to completely renovate the building but the town terminated the contract due to defaults on Baybutt's part.

Cullenen said the Engelberth Construction Inc. is now "buttoning up" the building.

"The short-term construction manager is going to be doing some additional work ... getting a couple of the sub-contractors to come back and securing the building more," he told the boards. "We'll have more information within the next week to two weeks."

He said the Rockingham library board of trustees has been a part of the discussions.

Cullenen also mentioned the opening ceremony of the new Bartonsville Covered Bridge, which was destroyed by Tropical Storm Irene in August 2011, and said it was a wonderful event.

MacPhee said at least 150 attended and read a letter from Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., who was unable to make it but wanted to send his congratulations.

"As a Vermonter, I am proud of your resilience and your commitment to preserving our heritage and history," MacPhee read aloud.

Domenic Poli can be reached at dpoli@reformer.com, or 802-254-2311, ext. 277. Follow him on Twitter @dpoli_reformer.