Town Manager’s Column – July 2017

ALL ABOUT TOWN

Stuart A. Hurd, Town Manager

At its first meeting in July, the Select Board voted to select the Charter Review Committee members. They are Jon Cohen, Robert Ebert, Lynn Green, Michael Keane, Dan Malmborg, Sean Marie Oller, and Bob Plunkett. The Select Board has not yet worked out its charge to the Committee. The Committee will elect its own Chair. The Town will supply a secretary and handle all meeting notices, postings, etc.

The Committee will meet soon to organize and begin its work.

The work on the development of a Tax Increment Financing District (TIF) has begun in earnest. Dan Monks and Michael McDonough are handling the lion’s share of the staff effort. Working with the consulting firm, White and Burke, we must identify the boundaries of the District, identify potential developments, identify infrastructure and its estimated cost, and analyze the potential Grand List growth. The formal Letter of Intent was signed by the Chair and the Manager and mailed today. Under current legislation, once the District is identified and an application for a TIF District developed, it must be presented to the Vermont Economic Progress Council (VEPC). It is important in this process that the community understand the impacts of the District and that the viability of the District can be shown to VEPC. I am told the process and review are rigorous and detailed. Once approved by VEPC, the Town must seek approval from the voters. The approval sought is to allow the Town to incur debt for the identified infrastructure improvements, roads, lighting, sidewalks, storm sewers, parking, etc., which will then stimulate development in the District. The debt incurred is then paid off utilizing the tax revenue generated by the incremental increase in the Grand List resulting from the new development within the District. There is no impact on the taxpayers because the TIF allows the Town to use increased education tax revenue that would normally flow to the State to pay off local bonds.

The negotiations between Saint-Gobain and the State continue. There continues to be positive movement towards a resolution for those wells contaminated and located west of the railroad tracks that run to North Bennington from Bennington. That is the good news. For those properties east of the tracks, Saint-Gobain is preparing a plan to test soils, surface waters, and subsurface waters to identify to its satisfaction the source of PFOA in this area. The Town is awaiting a final review of those plans by the State and EPA before signing on.

We continue to move forward with necessary work at the Wastewater Treatment Facility to get ready for the bond vote in October. The plans are at the 90% stage. The focus of our efforts will be on replacing the RBC’s, a new pre-screening facility to remove debris at the Headworks, upgrading the anaerobic digestion by upgrading both the Primary and Secondary Digesters, and Control Building upgrades including a small addition and electrical work. We hope to unveil the plans and cost estimates very soon to get the community behind this very necessary project.

I am pleased to announce that we have hired a new Community Development Director. She is Zirwat Chowdhury, a Bennington resident, with an impeccable educational background in economics and art history. She will begin her tenure with the Town on July 31, 2017. I am also pleased that our current interim Director, Michael McDonough, will stay on in a contract capacity to continue work on several very important projects including the TIF District application and the Request for Proposals on the two highway garages once our new Public Works Facility can be occupied.

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.