WESTMINSTER -- A zoning permit from the town and the financing of downward-facing shields are all that stand in the way of Bellows Falls Union High School turning on the stadium lights gifted for Hadley Field.
The lights, the first in school history, and the poles that hoist them were installed thanks to the financial holdings of longtime Westminster resident Alvin L. Southwick, who died in August 2011.
The Vermont Natural Resources Board last month authorized the use of the lights, provided that most of them are equipped with downward-facing shields. The NRB issued a land use (Act 250) permit to the Rockingham Town School District and the Windham Northeast Supervisory Union justifying the installation of the outdoor lighting system at the football and baseball fields of BFUHS.
According to the land use permit, there can be no change to the design, operation or use of the project and no further alteration or development on the land with a permit amendment. The lights can be used a maximum of 46 nights a year and must be turned off by 11 p.m. They also cannot be mounted any higher than 70 feet above grade level. And all but two of must be shielded by visors. That requirement was requested by Westminster.
The District 2 Environmental Commission found, following a quasi-judicial hearing, that the project complies with Vermont state statutes.
Jim "Jiggs" McAuliffe, the chairman of the BFUHS Building and Grounds Committee, said Monday the materials and labor associated with adding the shields will come with a pricetag of roughly $13,500. Resident Suzanne Groenewold suggested asking Techline, Inc. -- the company that set up the lights -- to pay at least some of the costs of the shields' installation. Groenewold feels the company owes something to the school after not being able to guarantee the safety of the installation last year, forcing the fields to be closed for about a week.
Members of the building and grounds committee mentioned donations will be accepted to offset the cost of shielding the lights. BFUHS Principal Chris Hodsden said anyone interested in donating can contact him at 802-463-3944.
Resident Cindy Riendeau asked if online fundraising platforms such as Kickstarter and Indiegogo could be used and McAuliffe and Hodsden said it is a possibility, but the particulars should be reserved for a future meeting of the building and grounds committee.
Following the committee's meeting, WNESU Superintendent Chris Kibbe briefed the BFUHS Board of Directors on the latest development involving the lights. He said he believes the BFUHS board may be a few months away from receiving a zoning permit from Westminster.
Domenic Poli can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or 802-254-2311, ext. 277. You can follow him on Twitter @dpoli_reformer.