Town Manager’s Column – April 2020

ALL ABOUT TOWN

Stuart A. Hurd, Town Manager

Welcome to our brave new world. In these difficult times, we often look for ways to join together (with appropriate distancing) to let each other know we’re ok and we’re in this together. Two opportunities exist to help us do just that. The first is Light Up Vermont. Kayla Thompson brought it to my attention. People are placing lit stars in windows or lighting Christmas lights to let their neighbors and the community know we are here together. Check out the Town Office front window some night. The second opportunity began as a way to let front line people know we appreciate their service. People would go to the front door, window, porch at 7 pm and clap for one minute or more or otherwise make noise to say “thank you” to all who serve us every day. It has become a way to connect with your neighbors and your community. It is an uplifting experience. I encourage the people of Bennington to join in these acts of celebration and remembrance. We are stronger together.

The Police Department Assessment conducted by IACP (the International Association of Chiefs of Police) is expected to be presented to the public on April 20, 2020. We look forward to the completion of the report and its review by the community.

The Wastewater Treatment Facility upgrade is pretty much finished. This Spring the contractor will return to finish grading, seeding and mulching disturbed areas, put the finishing touches on the new buildings and ensure that the mechanical equipment is operating properly. Unfortunately, the pandemic has slowed progress.

It is expected that Casella Construction will begin Contracts 8 and 9 this summer, the final contracts for the expansion of our municipal water system to address PFOA contamination. The contracts started in 2019 are expected to be finalized no later than this Fall. This work is deemed essential as we work to deliver municipal water to those whose wells are contaminated with PFOA.

Speaking of the water system, Thank you for your support of the bond question on the March ballot regarding lead service line removals. With voter support and a successful grant application, the Town will begin to remove private lead service lines eliminating a potentially dangerous toxin from our drinking water. The State will reimburse the Town 100% of the cost incurred.

In February, when I wrote my column, I was looking forward to the important construction projects and potential new developments that were on the horizon. Unfortunately, the pandemic has brought much of this to a temporary halt. The Putnam project and the UCS project at the Rec Center have been paused in accordance with the Governor’s orders to slow the spread of COVID-19. There is good news. The former Middle School has been purchased. The developer has some great ideas for the space. The former Tuttles lot and the Bennington Brush property have been purchased. We look forward to re-development of these important downtown properties.

I know this is a difficult time for all our residents. The Governor recently extended the stay home; stay safe order until May 15th. I join with him in asking everyone to keep social distancing when out in the public and wear a mask when shopping or when you know social distancing will be difficult. I note today that grocery stores are working to provide a safe environment for their employees. I encourage all employers to do the same. We can be safe; we can get through this together.

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.