Town Manager’s Column: (December 2016)

ALL ABOUT TOWN
Stuart A. Hurd, Town Manager 

At the December 12th Select Board meeting, a group of citizens asked about our Morgan Spring sale of water. Historically, Morgan Spring has surfaced in the Recreation Center lands for hundreds of years. The overflow runs beneath the Recreation Center lands and under Safford Street where it surfaces as a stream. It disappears into Energizer where it can be used as non-contact cooling water. It flows under the Bennington Elementary School property and the former Catamount School property entering the Walloomsac River just east of the North Street Bridge. When the Town decided to formally add the Spring to our water system as a secondary source, although it had been used informally for years, the State mandated that the Spring be capped to avoid surface contamination. At that time, the State was convinced that the aquifer for the Spring was fed from the Green Mountains to the east. A study performed by the Town’s engineers determined that the aquifer is actually fed from the eastern and southern slopes of Mt. Anthony. It is capable of generating 2.1 million gallons of water /day. In 2002, the Town sent out a Request for Proposals (RFP) to determine if sale of the water had potential. In January 2003, Vermont Pure, the only vendor to express an interest, and the Town entered into a 20 year agreement for the sale of a maximum 100,000 gallons/day. Vermont Pure has slowly ramped up its purchase of water to the point where we project $80,000 in revenue this fiscal year. This money is used to mitigate the rates we charge. 

The Citizen Survey is complete. Town staff are pulling together the results and hope to present to the Select Board and the community at the first January meeting (Jan 9). As I stated last month, the results will be coupled with last year’s business survey to provide a baseline for the new Annual Report Card, commonly called the Scorecard. It will be part of the Town’s Annual Report. 

The Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation has authorized the final design for the municipal water line extensions and improvements in Bennington and North Bennington. Negotiations continue with Saint-Gobain. Currently, the State is committed to funding all projects and project design. The estimated cost remains at $31 million. 

At the December 12 Board meeting, the Putnam Redevelopment Group, through Bill Colvin, presented an update on the Greenberg block project. The project, estimated at $40 to $50 million to complete, is moving forward. If everything works out, a closing on the sale could take place early next year. This is the most important redevelopment project in Bennington’s history. The Town will be asked to support two Community Development Block Grant applications to assist with the project. The Town may also be asked to support the project through a Tax Increment Funding district (TIF) that will require some legislative action in Montpelier. There may be other requests for support as the project moves forward. I believe the Town should enthusiastically support this redevelopment proposal. The long-term health and well-being of the community may depend on it. 

The first part of the downtown hotel study, Phase I, performed by the Pinnacle Group and authorized at the Board’s October 24th meeting, is complete. The results are encouraging. Phase II has now been authorized. We anticipate an early January final report. This second phase will provide detail about a proposed hotel such as number of rooms, pricing, market potential, and the like.  

If anyone has any questions or suggestions arising from this column or on any town matters, please contact me at 442-1037, at shurd@benningtonvt.org, 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.