Thursday November 29, 2012

BELLOWS FALLS -- The Bellows Falls Village Board of Trustees voted on Tuesday to take new courses of action regarding two buildings that have been deemed unsafe.

The trustees have serious concerns about the buildings at 14 Tuttle Street and 35 Front Street and the board decided it is necessary to take the next steps as permitted under the Bellows Falls Unsafe Building Ordinance.

Trustee Deborah Wright said Rockingham Health Officer/Zoning-Planning Administrator Ellen Howard and Bellows Falls Fire Chief William Weston have been authorized to conduct an inspection of the property on Tuttle Street.

The trustees discussed the building’s condition at their meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 13, but did not take immediate action. In a letter signed by Village President Roger Riccio, the board requested the property owner clean up and remove all materials from a porch deconstruction by 7 p.m. on Monday, Nov. 26. This deadline was not met.

Wright said Howard and Weston have already inspected the 35 Front Street residence and the trustees on Tuesday authorized them, along with a structural engineer, to analyze the carriage barn and residence on the property.

In other business:

-- The board voted to name Trustee Andrew Smith as chairman of developing a Housing Research Committee. Residents interested in being members of the committee should submit a letter of interest.

Smith said the committee’s purpose will be to gather and analyze call logs from the village’s police and fire departments and create categories of properties. He told the Reformer the categories would be used to determine what sort of burdens various properties place on the two departments, which he said would take up more of the village budget than any other departments.

Smith said he believes some categories will include single-occupancy households, owner-occupied homes and apartments. He said he got the idea because he wants to assess facts instead of the biased opinions and perceptions he has heard since moving to Bellows Falls in 2004.

Trustee Deborah Wright expressed support for the committee because Smith is volunteering his time and it won’t cost the village any money.

Smith said the analysis will likely get underway in the second week of January and take about four months to complete. He said the trustees will approve of disapprove other committee members during a meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 8.

-- Village landlord Linda Udd and three of her friends were granted time to speak as the first item on the agenda and Udd asked if an independent investigation is being conducted into alleged incidents involving one of her tenants. Chip Stearns, acting as municipal manager in the absence of Tim Cullenen, said there is one at the state level.

"I have read your complaint," he told Udd. "It is in the hands of the attorney general’s office of the state of Vermont."

Udd has been in a bitter dispute with Betty Bashaw over alleged unpaid rent and criminal acts.

Udd lives in the attic of a family home at 26 Hapgood Place and rents out its two apartments. She said a woman moved into one of the apartments on the second floor several months ago but hasn’t paid rent in the past five or six months. Udd claims her loss of revenue -- $5,100 as of Nov. 5 -- will force her into foreclosure.

She said if she doesn’t scrape together enough money by Sunday, Dec. 16, she will lose the house to foreclosure and become homeless. She said the man renting a room on the first floor will soon move into a new house.

Udd has sought the Bellows Falls Police Department’s assistance in removing Bashaw from the property, but officers say they cannot do anything because it is a civil matter, not a criminal one. Udd said she understands that, but claims the tenant has exhibited criminal behavior by locking her in her own basement, throwing eggs at her car and attempting to have dogs attack her.

Stearns said the independent investigation started on Thursday, Nov. 8, but would not comment on its developments.

Udd said she is working with State Rep. Carolyn Partridge (D-Windham-4) to try to change the state’s tenant laws.

-- During his manager’s report, Stearns said the emergency exercise drill at the Arch Bridge went smoothly at 2 p.m. on Tuesday.

"The purpose of the drill was to determine the response time to close down that section of the village to traffic in the event that the Arch Bridge needed to be shut down," he told the trustees toward the start of the meeting. "We were successful in securing all the locations that were required on both sides of the bridge from the time the exercise started to 12 minutes later.

"The only people who knew the time of this event were the department heads who needed to be prepared. That included water, wastewater, police, fire and highway," he continued. "All the employees responded duly and appropriately."

Domenic Poli can be reached at dpoli@reformer.com, or 802-254-2311, ext. 277.