BELLOWS FALLS -- Just as she promised, State Rep. Carolyn Partridge called legislative counsel last week to start the process of drafting legislation to be proposed to allow towns to be ahead of the mortgages of unsafe buildings.
Partridge, D-Windham, got the ball rolling about 24 hours after meeting with the Bellows Falls Village Board of Trustees and Municipal Manager Willis D. "Chip" Stearns II on Aug. 12 for an update on unsafe buildings throughout town. According to the meeting's official minutes, Stearns told Partridge the village is unable to recoup funds spent on these unsafe buildings. He also explained the village is behind the mortgages on the buildings and is unlikely to receive money to off-set costs.
Stearns mentioned large places, such as Burlington, that have code enforcement divisions can get money back, but smaller towns have little chance of doing so. According to the meeting's minutes, Stearns told Partridge he would like to see a change in the law that allows "towns to supersede the mortgages." Partridge said it will be easier to change the legislation for towns to be ahead of a mortgage on properties such as these unsafe ones than it would be to secure any reimbursement.
Patridge told the Reformer she called legislative counsel, which she said is essentially the legal aide for state legislators, on Aug. 13 and requested the drafting of a bill that would allows towns to come ahead of a mortgage in cases such as the one Rockingham/Bellows Falls is experiencing.
"When we get back to the Statehouse, I can have the thing drafted," she told the Reformer.
Partridge also told Stearns and the members of the trustees board to reach out to other towns that have the same concerns and urge citizens to get their state legislators to sign onto the bill once legislative session in Montpelier begins.
"The more sponsors you have, it shows support for the bill and it stands a better chance of getting through the entire process," she said, adding that people should also contact their state senators, who will get to vote on the bill if it survives the Vermont State House of Representatives.
Later in the meeting's agenda, the trustees voted unanimously to authorize Stearns to sign all documents pertaining to a five-year, $260,270 loan from the Drinking Water State Revolving Loan Fund. The loan will come with 0 percent interest.
In other business:
-- During his manager's report, Stearns noted that the Bellows Falls Fire/Police facility's roof -- which was replaced in 2001 -- is quickly disintegrating and must be replaced. According to the minutes, the 2001 replacement was part of a 15-year, $89,000 bond and the materials used are the subject of a class action lawsuit. Baybutt Construction Corp. was the contractor at the time. Stearns said the problem was noticed in the spring, when snow melted and large pieces of the roof fell off. He said the roof should be repaired as soon as possible.
-- Stearns also explained the construction taking place in The Square. He said Rockingham Street is expected to be closed from in front of Rockingham Town Hall north to the old Arch Bridge, from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m., for the next month and a half to two months.
-- During the public comments portion of the meeting, residents Marty Gallagher, Cheryl Gay and Mary Barber spoke about their citizens' group, "Happy BF," which aims to positively promote Bellows Falls. Gallagher said the group meets at 5:15 p.m. every Tuesday and the times and locations can be found on its Facebook page. He said anyone wanting to contact the group should send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Domenic Poli can be reached at email@example.com, or 802-254-2311, ext. 277. You can follow him on Twitter @dpoli_reformer.