Forgiveness sought on overdue bills at mill

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BELLOWS FALLS — The Bellows Falls Area Development Corporation asked the village Board of Trustees for forgiveness for delinquent utility bills for the Robertson Paper Mill Tuesday night, saying it doesn't have the funds to pay the $2,000 it owes.

The trustees did not take action on the request, as Trustee Stefan Golec was absent and Trustee James McAuliffe, who is on the board of BFADC, recused himself from the vote.

Trustee Deborah Wright is against the idea of forgiving the debt. "I don't feel like it would be in good faith to the people of Bellows Falls because they don't have the same options as this organization," she said. The Trustees recently raised wastewater rates, and Wright thought it was unfair to exempt one organization from paying.

BFADC has been trying to clean up the property for the past three years. Eventually, the hope is that companies may buy it and use it to add more industry to the village.

Development Director Gary Fox explained that BFADC has no money. "BFADC is not a revenue organization," he explained. The organization has received approximately $1 million in grant aid for the Robertson Paper Mill project, but, Fox said, those grants have stipulations. He was unsure if BFADC could receive some grants without the forgiveness. This could delay the entire project until BFADC finds a way to pay the $2,000 it owes in utility bills.

Trustee James McAuliffe, who is on the board of BFADC, recused himself from the vote. He did, however, speak up for the organization.

"We really have got some serious momentum going," he said.

"As a taxpayer, I see both sides, and I'm going to disagree with my friend," resident Hope Brissette said, referring to Wright. She said the trustees should be supporting whatever they needed to in order to get the Robertson Paper Mill cleaned up. Her husband, Joe Brissette, agreed.

Trustees agreed to defer the discussion until Golec returns.

Dangerous Building

Wright said she was concerned about the safety of a building at 203 Paper Mill Rd. Though the building is still owned by somebody, it appears vacant. It's also a delinquent account in water and wastewater bills. Municipal Manager Shane O'Keefe pointed out that the building likely wasn't using water or wastewater. Still, trustees were concerned about more than its debt.

"The building is open to the environment," Wright said. She was concerned about the lack of security. She said one time, "somebody started a little fire in there."

Trustee President Myles Mickle agreed. "I know people go in and out of that building," he said. He also added that the cost to secure the building would be significant.

The village also doesn't have a lot of leeway with what happens to the building because it doesn't own it. "I don't know if the town wants to own that," O'Keefe said.

Wright said the property itself was great, "but it's not even developed."

Trustees agreed to have O'Keefe look into securing the building.

Farmers Market

The Bellows Falls Farmers Market will have access to electricity this year, as the trustees agreed to provide power to the market except for refrigeration and heating.

Fox pointed out to trustees that the farmers market takes electronic benefit cards.

The federal government, he said, "wants everyone to eat more fresh healthy foods," and as a result vendors need to charge the machines that take EBT cards. In the past, Fox said, the farmers market used TD Bank for electricity, but he wondered if there was an outlet at Hetty Park he could use. Trustee Steve Adams said people could use the adaptor to get electricity from a street light. Wright suggested the farmers market use a generator instead, so the village wouldn't be responsible for extra electricity costs.

"We found out that we pay for the usage at the park," she said.

McAuliffe said he didn't really care what the farmers market did. "I just don't want to spend any money," he said.

Wright asked how much electricity the farmers market used at the bank. Fox said it was minimal. In addition to charging machines, Fox added that occasionally the farmers market had musicians who may need to plug in amps.

Adams suspected the energy usage for music would also be minimal.

"If you're running an amp to a microphone, it'd be equivalent to a light bulb," he said.

Harmony Birch can be reached at hbirch@reformer.com, at @Birchharmony on Twitter and 802-254-2311, Ext. 153.

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