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Voters OK Ripton exit from ACSD and Middlebury solar proposal

MIDDLEBURY — Small numbers of voters in six Addison County towns showed up at the polls on Tuesday to approve Middlebury’s $323,000 investment in a solar project in Bristol’s former landfill, and to endorse a financial separation agreement between the town of Ripton and the Addison Central School District.

Middlebury residents voted 530-109 to buy into the 500-kilowatt Bristol Community Solar (BCS) project through a 25-year bond. The Acorn Energy Co-op is the local nonprofit spearheading the solar array, which will be built at the site of the former Bristol landfill off Pine Street.

Middlebury’s $323,000 investment in BCS could save the municipality up to $180,000 in electricity costs over the life of the bond — that’s savings after debt service on the bond is paid off via lower energy costs, according to Acorn. The savings will fully offset bond payments, Acorn officials said.

Middlebury is being guaranteed at least 15% of BCS’s 1,694 panels (which will generate 440 watts each).

Meanwhile, residents in the ACSD towns of Bridport, Cornwall, Middlebury, Salisbury, Shoreham and Weybridge removed the last hurdle Ripton must cross before gaining its educational independence from the ACSD: A financial separation agreement that essentially calls for Ripton to take over the approximately $150,000 in debt remaining on a solar energy project installed at its local school back in 2013.

The agreement passed 43-10 in Bridport, 52-2 in Cornwall, 556-87 in Middlebury, 61-5 in Salisbury, 29-0 in Shoreham and 58-0 in Weybridge.

Had the financial agreement been rejected in any of the six towns, Ripton’s effort to exit the ACSD would have returned to square one. That effort began last January with Ripton residents voting, 163-107, in favor of leaving the ACSD. Then voters in the six other ACSD towns endorsed the town’s withdrawal bid in March. The Vermont State Board of Education gave its support this past spring, and is again scheduled to discuss Ripton’s status later this month (see related story here).

Ripton initiated separation from the ACSD as a means of preserving its local elementary school, which has been targeted for possible closure by the ACSD due to declining enrollment and rising education costs. Ripton recently elected a new local school board that will preside over preK-12 education for its students. Plans call for the town to tuition its older students to area districts that have the capacity to accept them.

Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected].

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