BELLOWS FALLS -- A bond vote regarding the Bellows Falls wastewater system has been scheduled for Aug. 26, three months after an oversight at the village's newspaper of record forced a delay of the initial date.
Municipal Manager Willis D. "Chip" Stearns II said state law dictates that notification of a bond vote must appear in the newspaper of record on the same day for three consecutive weeks, but The Shopper failed to print the notice in the May 1 edition, meaning the vote could not be held as planned on May 20. The vote was supposed to be held the same day residents elect their village officials. The public hearing in relation to the bond vote was also postponed and will now be held in the Rockingham Town Hall Lower Theatre on Aug. 25. It is an opportunity for citizens to ask questions or raise concerns.
Stearns said the May 20 vote instead turned into a straw poll, which indicated village residents support obtaining a bond for the wastewater improvement project. The vote on Aug. 26 will be held via Australian ballot and requires only a simple majority. The polls will be at the Masonic Temple at 61 Westminster St.
Stearns told the Reformer the amount of the bond in question has increased to $7 million due to new engineering cost estimates. The original estimates conducted five years ago put the suggested figure at $6 million, but Stearns said the new engineering firm (Aldrich & Elliott, which has an office in Windsor) has produced a higher estimate.
The municipal manager explained the bond, if approved, would be borrowed from the Vermont Municipal Bond Bank to fund the wastewater system improvements and the village would have to pay it back through user fees over a 20-year period. He said the impending improvements would the final phase of a 20-year re-evaluation of the Bellows Falls wastewater treatment facility, though the study of the project took five years to complete.
Stearns told the Reformer the mistake by The Shopper was an inconvenience more than anything. He also said someone at the weekly newspaper visited his office in May to personally apologize for the error. The Shopper is the newspaper of record because it is free of charge and automatically delivered to residents' mailboxes each week, and therefore has 100 percent distribution throughout the village.
Domenic Poli can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or 802-254-2311, ext. 277. You can follow him on Twitter @dpoli_reformer.