Town Manager’s Column: All About Town (January)

ALL ABOUT TOWNStuart Hurd

Stuart A. Hurd, Town Manager

At its last meeting, January 12th, the Board reversed its decision to reduce the 8% delinquent tax penalty to 4%. This decision will allow the Town to continue a practice that has been in place for decades. It will also not force the Board to increase taxes to offset the loss in revenue or force the Board to cut necessary services.

On January 17th, the Board completed its work on the FY2016 General, Highway and Fire Fund budgets. After approving several agency requests adding $25,690 to the General Fund to support the Bennington Free Library, the John McCullough Library, BCRC, Paran Recreation, and North Bennington recreation and finalizing salaries for the Manager, the Town Clerk, and the Treasurer, the Board voted to accept the FY2016 budget for the March vote. The total budget is up 1.03%. The March ballot will include 13 agency requests for funding totaling just over $122,000. It will also include an article asking the voters if the Town should “adjust the natural level of fluoride” in the Town’s water system as a means of preventing tooth decay. Two forums have been scheduled to address the issue; one on February 12th in the evening, a panel discussion with questions to follow; the other on February 19th also in the evening, the format has not yet been disclosed.

That’s right, ladies and gentlemen, March Town Meeting is just around the corner. Two Select Board seats are open. One of the incumbents, Greg Van Houten, has decided not to seek re-election. His family and business needs must come first. The other incumbent, Jim Carroll, is circulating petitions for re-election. Three others have filed petitions as of this writing, Don Campbell, Don Miller, and Rick Pembroke. Several others have taken out the necessary paperwork, but have not yet filed. It will certainly be an interesting election. Please remember that school board seats and school budgets will also be on ballots. The Floor Meeting for the various boards will be Monday evening March 2nd. The vote will take place the following day, Tuesday March 3rd.

The Joint Municipal Survey Committee continues its work on developing an inter-municipal agreement to form an Alliance to collaborate on solid waste management solutions.  Thirteen towns have joined this group. In review are the Alliance agreement and a new licensing ordinance that must be adopted in each town to identify waste haulers and collectors to insure pricing for collection conforms to the new State law. Pricing for services must be unit based.

The State of Vermont Agency of Transportation recently approved a planting plan for the Walmart roundabout suggested by the Bennington in Bloom committee. The Town has agreed to maintain the plantings at the request of Redstone Development. Redstone will, of course, pay to construct and landscape the roundabout. This is a great step forward in bringing beatification efforts to Northside Drive.

I am encouraged by the growing economic development possibilities now under discussion and development. While I can’t disclose specifics due to requested confidentiality, I am hopeful that Bennington has finally turned the corner on the recession that slowed new growth dramatically.

Finally, have you noticed the early morning and late evening light? Can Spring be far behind?

Remember, if anyone has any questions or suggestions arising from this column or on any town matters, please contact me at 442-1037 or stop in at the Town Offices on South Street.

Stuart Hurd is Bennington’s Town Manager. He writes a monthly column on town issues.