BELLOWS FALLS -- Village voters approved the article before them on Tuesday and agreed to borrow from a bond bank, three months after an oversight at the village's newspaper of record sent a wastewater improvement project on a detour.
Residents voted 178 to 71 via Australian ballot to borrow $7 million from the Vermont Municipal Bond Bank to fund the improvements . Municipal Manager Willis D. "Chip" Stearns II previously told the Reformer the village will have to pay back the money through user fees over a 20-year period. The vote required a simple majority.
Stearns said the impending improvements will be 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. He also noted the project is still in the "study stage" and there is no final design at this time.
The bond vote originally was planned for May 20 but had to be rescheduled after The Shopper -- the village's newspaper of record -- failed to print official notification of the vote in its May 1 edition. Stearns explained state law dictates that notification of a bond vote must appear in the newspaper of record on the same day for three consecutive weeks and The Shopper's omission meant the vote date had to be moved. It was supposed to be held the same day Bellows Falls residents elect their village officials. Stearns previously told the Reformer that Aug. 26 was chosen as the new date because that is when the state primary elections were held.
The municipal manager said the May 20 vote instead turned into a straw poll, which indicated village residents supported obtaining a bond for the wastewater improvement project. The amount of the bond has since increased from $6 million to $7 million due to new engineering cost estimates.
Stearns said someone at The Shopper visited his office in May to personally apologize for the newspaper's mistake. Stearns told the Reformer the delay was an inconvenience, more than anything. He said 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.
There was a public hearing held Monday for locals to voice their concerns or questions about the bond.
Domenic Poli can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or 802-254-2311, ext. 277. You can follow him on Twitter @dpoli_reformer.