Town Manager’s Column: All About Town (August 2015)

IMG_3585ALL ABOUT TOWN

Stuart A. Hurd, Town Manager

The Select Board is now focused on the proposed Town Plan. Of course, with a deadline for adoption or re-adoption looming, actions to revise the Plan must happen soon. To that end, the Board will revisit the issue at its August 24th meeting to lay out areas of concern and then meet with the Planning Commission on August 26th to iron out desired changes. If we all stay focused, we can accomplish the necessary revisions, provided they meet the “minor revision” definition, by the October 9th deadline.

At the last Board meeting, under the Citizen portion of the meeting, Rick Carroll presented an aerial view of the proposed solar farm just north of the Route 7/279 interchange. He raised a concern for the adjoining property owners, but also pointed to the potential visual impact this solar farm will have from the Welcome Center and the Monument. New laws enacted by the Legislature this year require additional setbacks and screening for these projects, but the approvals continue to rest with the Public Service Board (PSB), not municipalities. The Legislature apparently chose not to address that. In other communities, the PSB has not been too sympathetic to the concerns raised by the communities. It’s hard to predict what the PSB will do in this case.

The Bennington County Solid Waste Alliance continues its work in adopting a Solid Waste Implementation Plan that will conform to the State’s Materials Management Plan. The 13 towns are working well together and moving to a conclusion on the Plan. In our review, it becomes even more apparent to me that the Legislature simply pushed most of the responsibility for meeting the State’s goals on to the towns. As I have already stated, costs will rise for all of us. The goals are lofty and well-meaning, but they come with a cost.

For those of you who listen to WBTN 1370 AM, you know that I “appeared” by phone while in the middle of writing this column. I indicated I would mention the new effort by the State Education Board and the Legislature to “incentivize” consolidation efforts. I hope that the school boards of the SVSU are looking at this seriously. In many ways, we are consolidated under the SVSU, but we can take it one more step and form a unified union district, essentially eliminating the SVSU Board and bringing the Superintendent’s office under the Mt. Anthony Union umbrella. In that way, the united union district is overseen by an elected body and the associated budget becomes a part of the school budgets we vote on. I believe we can all benefit by a greater consolidation.

While on this subject, I have a great deal of respect for Jim Culkeen, the Superintendent. I find him to be forthright, engaged, and serious about the education system here in the Union. I know there are those who are unhappy with the MAU Board’s decision, or is it the process, regarding the recent hiring of MAUHS principal. Directing anger at the Superintendent is wrong. He is part of the process, but he does not do the hiring. And for what it’s worth, I think Ms. Cresto is a good choice. Mr. Molloy may have been as well. These decisions are not easy when all candidates appear to be qualified.

I send my best wishes to the Bennington Fire Department for a successful Battle Day weekend.

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.