Message from Select Board Chairperson, Donald Campbell

 

There is nothing I can say that will make the next few months much better for you. By now, we all know the magnitude of the Corona Virus problem and the dire measures we will have to take to avoid the worst of possible outcomes. Like most of you, I fear for my children, my elderly parents, my job and my ability to pay my bills, and I worry for the people, families, and businesses that are the fabric of our community. And yet still I am painfully aware that many in town have a lot more to worry about than me.

As Select Board Chair, I have an eye on the inner workings of our community. Even with things changing on an hourly basis, let me offer reassurance that critical community partners, town staff, and town government are fully engaged. The task is huge but everybody is communicating, preparing, making difficult, fact-based decisions, and trying to take care of our people.

  • The hospital saw this coming and SVMC began preparing long before the crisis hit. People can use the information hotline at (802) 440-8844 or contact your primary care physician for updates.
  • The Department of Health maintains an up-to-date website with recommendations and breaking news at https://healthvermont.gov/COVID-19. As of Wednesday, the updated recommendation for people with community contact that have symptoms consistent with Covid-19 (fever, shortness of breath, cough) should stay home. Healthcare workers with symptoms should contact their employers and the Department of Health for expedited testing, to prevent depleting our healthcare system.
  • The Department of Labor is working extremely hard to adapt to what the crisis is doing to employees and employers. Those affected should call the main number for intake at (802) 442-6376 or go to https://labor.vermont.gov/covid19
  • The Town is making every effort to protect essential services. Water, sewer, highway, and police departments have prepared emergency plans and are making preparations to protect government’s ability to function. Although the Town offices are closed to foot traffic, you may call (802) 442-1037 for town offices and (802) 442-1043 for the Town Clerk. Email addresses are available on the town website. The police Department remains open with limited access.
  • Our legislative delegates are working hard to push through legislation that will help people and businesses access emergency capital and better survive Covid-19. More to come on this soon.

This we now know: if we cannot slow the rate of contagion, our medical system may become overwhelmed by mid-April and things will get much worse. Although we all hate having town facilities and schools closed, nearly everybody recognizes the immediate necessity of this crisis. This will challenge us to be our better selves in the face of great adversity, so please find creative ways to support each other while still following state and federal guidelines limiting personal contact and practicing “social distancing.”

The Bennington Select Board recognizes the health threat posed by public meetings. In fact, the federal recommendation is to not meet in groups of ten or more. Nevertheless, Vermont Public Meeting Law requires that we provide a physical location at which citizens may participate in our regular meetings. On Monday, March 23rd, the board will hold its first-ever video conference meeting. Technology willing, the meeting will be aired, live-streamed, and available afterward as usual by CAT-TV. We have purposely striped the agenda of all but essential items, so that focus can be on reports from the hospital and Department of Health. We strongly encourage residents not to attend, for health sake, but if you do attend in person you will find only the Chair (me), one staff member, and a computer in the room. The other board members will be joining by video conference. This move is to protect town governance from going down all at once. If the Chair gets hospitalized, the Vice Chair will take over; if the Vice Chair gets sick, the board will select another leader, and so on. We expect to have technology hiccups while we adopt this new technology and implore citizens to be patient with us while we get better at it. Old dogs, new tricks, and all that. Thank you in advance for your patience.

We will get through this but as soon as we have neutralized the immediate health threat, we must quickly pivot our focus to helping our community, our families, and our businesses heal. Let’s all get ready to help.