Town Manager’s Column: All About Town (July 2016)

ALL ABOUT TOWN

by Stuart A. Hurd, Town Manager 

The big news is the Putnam Block Redevelopment. A group of investors, including local institutions, local businesses, and individuals has stepped forward to take on this very important project. The group includes the Bank of Bennington, Southwestern Vermont Health Care, Bennington College, Southern Vermont College, Global Z International, Brian McKenna, Anthony and Jacqueline Marro, a group of investors who wish to remain anonymous, and M&S Development, a Brattleboro firm that headed up the major redevelopment of the Brooks House in Brattleboro. There is much work to do before this dream is realized. The Town’s role will be important. It involves grant funds, perhaps tax stabilization, monies from the Town’s economic development fund, cooperation on parking, and infrastructure improvements timed to match the project’s development along Franklin Lane and Washington Avenue. This is a very exciting time.

I note the lawsuit filed against the Town and its Police Department headlined in Tuesday’s Banner (July 12). In instances like this, my staff and I never comment publically on the allegations or the facts in the case. That is standard practice. However, it is interesting to note that the Banner had knowledge of the suit before the Town was served. I leave it to the reader to speculate on that fact.

A second story alleging conflicts of interest in bid awards is off base. The Manager awards contracts for all major projects, those using federal and state funds. Minor contracts are negotiated at the department level with the Manager’s consent. The Select Board and its members are not involved.

Now focusing on projects…the Hunt Street bridge project continues on pace. The last I heard, the State and the contractor were planning on two lane traffic sometime in August. August is also the month that Walmart expects to open its new store and the roundabout at the entrance will be completed. We’ll all breathe a collective sigh of relief when, at last, we can travel Benmont Avenue and Northside Drive unimpeded. Have you noticed the new retaining wall going up along Morgan Street? It is massive and masterful in its construction. Town personal are doing a great job moving the project along. We will gain two to three feet along the road’s shoulder providing much needed space for bicyclists and pedestrians. Within the next few weeks, the Town will begin construction of the Ninja Pathway running from the Bennington College entrance to Hannaford. Sometime later this year, the Town will construct a parking lot for the White Rocks Trail just off North Branch Street.

The PFOA contamination issue and response continues. Personnel from the VT Department of Conservation reported to the Select Board at the June 27th Select Board meeting. A subsequent public meeting was held at Bennington College. Testing continues. The Town and the North Bennington Water Board have been asked to contact impacted property owners to determine interest in connecting to municipal water. For Bennington, it will be via letter to all those impacted with a request for a response as soon as possible. Look for this letter by month end.

The SVSU Act 46 Study Committee has expanded to include community members. Donald Campbell, Anne Mook, and Marie Shutts have been invited to join the BSD contingent. I encourage all residents of the SVSU to follow these proceedings. This is one of the most important discussions undertaken in decades concerning our education system and its governance.

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.