Public Statement on Summer Camp at SVC Campus

On June 29th, the Town of Bennington became aware of a summer camp on the SVC campus and on July 2nd became aware of a private transaction involving the sale of the campus when the Bennington Banner published an article regarding the SVC bankruptcy. Once we learned about a summer camp on the SVC campus, our Building Inspector contacted the camp director and performed inspections on the buildings to determine compliance with Building, Fire, and Life Safety codes. Follow up inspections occurred today and will continue tomorrow. No new permits are required for this temporary summer camp use of the campus (except for a permit for the temporary tent which will be submitted tomorrow). A summer camp is an accessory use to the pre-existing college use of the property.

The Bennington Police Chief has also met with the camp director to discuss local residents’ concerns about noise and the State’s Commissioner of Public Safety and Deputy Secretary of the Vermont Agency of Commerce and Community Development have communicated about COVID-19 State guidelines with the camp director. The camp director has committed to comply with all State guidelines. Although the Town does not have the authority to enforce the COVID-19 State guidelines on private property, the Town will alert camp officials and the State of any violations observed.

Unfortunately, an article from Rise Up Ocean County that contains many falsehoods about the camp and its director is being shared widely on social media. Earlier this year, the Governor of New Jersey identified Rise Up Ocean County as an anti-Semitic group and their Facebook page was taken down due to their hateful messages about the Jewish community. The Town of Bennington does not condone any hateful rhetoric and strives to create a welcoming and safe environment for all. The camp director has stated that he wants to work collaboratively with the Bennington community and that the Bennington Area Trail System trails around the campus will remain open for public recreation.

 

Donald Campbell, Bennington Select Board Chair

Stuart Hurd, Bennington Town Manager

Select Board Meeting – July 6, 2020

The Bennington Select Board will meet for an executive session to consider personnel where premature release of information could place the Town at a disadvantage. The meeting will take place via ZOOM on Monday July 6 at 10:30 am.

Town of Bennington Outdoor Recreational Area Re-Opening Health and Safety Plan – Phase I

Town of Bennington Recreation Area Re-opening Plan Phase I (05122020) corrected version (1)

International Association of Chiefs of Police Presents Assessment of Bennington Police Department Policy and Procedures

The International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) will present an assessment of the Bennington Police Department’s policies and procedures on April 20th at 6 PM on CAT-TV (Channel 15) and Facebook.com/cattvbennington.  A recording of the presentation will be available for streaming at any time after April 20th on the Town’s webpage, Facebook.com/cattvbennington, and YouTube.com/cattvbennington.   During the presentation, IACP will summarize the findings and recommendations of the assessment and provide contact information and instructions regarding how to submit questions, comments and concerns about the assessment to IACP.  The contact information and instructions will also be posted on the Town’s website.

 

The April 20th presentation of the assessment will be followed by a live videoconference hosted by the Bennington Select Board on May 4th at 6 PM.  At the May 4th meeting IACP will answer the questions and address comments and concerns submitted to IACP after the April 20th presentation. The May 4th meeting will conclude with a call-in question and answer period for IACP.  It is anticipated that follow-up meetings will be held by the Select Board to obtain public comment and to discuss implementation of the recommendations contained in the assessment.

 

Late last year, the Town of Bennington worked with Curtis Reed, Executive Director of the Vermont Partnership for Fairness & Diversity, to develop and issue a Request for Proposals to assess the policies and procedures of the Bennington Police Department.  Several proposals were received and reviewed by a subcommittee of the Select Board and Curtis Reed, and IACP was selected to conduct the assessment.

 

A four-person team from IACP performed the review and assessment process. The assessment involved two extended visits to Bennington to gather input from residents and local groups and organizations, as well as to meet with Bennington Police Department officers and local officials. Comments from residents were collected through interviews and surveys— both during public meetings and in ways that protected the identity of the person or group providing information.

Staying Connected with the Bennington Select Board

I’m not going to sugarcoat the fact that this week was tough. Losing a good friend and community leader like Tom Jacobs amidst all the terrible news, sickness, death, and social dislocation of COVID-19 makes me want to scream at the heavens. I am sure most of us have had cause to scream this week, but we need to tap into the strength of our community, take a deep breath, and push forward.

Part of pushing forward is the gritty detail of conducting public meetings during a pandemic. The Bennington Select Board is committed to governing our town in an open and conscientious manner, and we are equally committed to keeping our residents safe. For the near future we will conduct our meetings by video conference, as you may have seen reported in the Banner or by viewing our last meeting and weekly updates on CAT-TV.

While this abrupt change to videoconferencing is necessary, it will not come without challenges and shortcomings. Chief among these will be that dialog cannot happen in person, for health and safety reasons. We are working hard to develop a telephone call-in protocol that will allow residents to make real-time comments and yet not compromise meeting security.

For now, this is how it will work: we will slightly reorder our agendas, we will allow for telephoned comments on each topic, and we will accept telephone calls for Citizen’s Comment at the end of the meeting. We are moving Citizen’s Comment to the end so that we have more time to communicate call-in instructions during the meeting and so that if you missed making a comment earlier in the meeting, you can make it at the end.

Here is how best to participate:

1: Review the Select Board agenda ahead of the meeting. Call or email the town manager or other board members about your thoughts and concerns. Agendas and contact information are posted on the town website: http://benningtonvt.org/meetings/select-board/

2: Watch the meeting on CAT-TV or their Facebook Live feed.

3: If you want to make a comment during the meeting, call 646-558-8656. Each meeting will have a unique Meeting ID number; this week it is 130 624 956, followed by the “#” sign. Because of security issues, all callers will go on hold immediately and the chair will bring them into the meeting in the order received. You will be asked to clearly state your name to help our secretary take minutes.

As chair of the board, I will do my best to moderate under these unusual conditions, but I will rely on the community for cooperation. Our meetings will follow the usual guidelines: civility and decorum will be required; short, factual questions may be answered by the town manager but unwarned topics will not be discussed; no personal attacks will be tolerated; and comments will be limited to three minutes or less.

Again, if you have a question about town business and sincerely want an answer, please call or email Town Manager Stuart Hurd first. Especially if you want facts or figures, this is your most productive first stop.

This difficult time of isolation will get harder before it gets better, but it will get better. We all look forward to being together again and our meetings will go back to normal as soon as it is safe. Thank you for your patience during this trying period. I am extremely proud of the way our community has stepped up to this crisis. Keep up the good work!

Donald Campbell is the chair of the Bennington Select Board.