Oversight forces delay of BF wastewater vote


BELLOWS FALLS -- The municipal manager said an oversight at the village's newspaper of record has forced the delay of a bond vote regarding the Bellows Falls wastewater system.

Willis D. "Chip" Stearns II said state law requires notification of a bond vote to 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 cannot be held on May 20 as planned. The vote on a $6 million wastewater bond was supposed to be held via Australian ballot the same day residents elect their village officials, but Stearns said it will now have to wait until the primary election in August or the general election in November.

According to the meeting agenda of the Bellows Falls Village Board of Trustees, the board plans to announce the bond vote delay at today's meeting, which is scheduled to begin at 6:30 p.m. in the Rockingham Town Hall Lower Theatre. The public hearing regarding the bond vote, also originally set for today, has been postponed.

Stearns said the delay means the village will have to wait for funding for the project to improve the wastewater system. He had previously told the Reformer the $6 million bond would be a debt to pay for the wastewater system improvements, and user fees would be used to pay off that debt. He said the impending improvements are part of a standard re-evaluation of the wastewater treatment plant. Stearns said Monday the project is still in the "study stage" and there is no final design at this time.

He also said someone at The Shopper visited his office to personally apologize for the error. Stearns told the Reformer the bond vote delay is an inconvenience, more than anything else, and should not affect the project. When asked if the relationship between the village and The Shopper would be affected, he said he did not know, but the trustees always name a newspaper of record once a new board is elected during the May election.

Stearns 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.

Domenic Poli can be reached at dpoli@reformer.com, or 802-254-2311, ext. 277. You can follow him on Twitter @dpoli_reformer.


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