Town Manager’s Column – July

ALL ABOUT TOWN

Stuart A. Hurd, Town Manager

It’s been a long time since I worked on a column. I have been remiss in not finding the time during these recent incredibly busy months. I am committed to returning to a monthly column highlighting the activities and responding to concerns in the Bennington community.

The Putnam Redevelopment Project is underway! Last year, at this time, funding was still the major focus. That mountain has been climbed and now construction has begun. As I’ve said before, this will be a transformative project. Congratulations to all involved.

The pump track at Stark Street playground, sponsored by the Bennington Area Trail System (BATS), is now open for use. Still to be completed are natural play areas, a walking pathway, and ultimately, bathrooms. This is one of the gateways to the pathway system that runs up to Mount Anthony.

The splash pad, a water feature, in what is now called Merchants Park (it will be renamed at a future date) is under construction. Warranty issues have developed, and we’re working with the primary contractor to resolve them. The bathroom and stage are nearly ready for use. Landscaping and final grading also remain to be completed.

Recently, a concern has been raised publicly about activities at Bennington’s wastewater treatment facility. It is important to understand that this plant treats 4.1 million gallons of wastewater daily. The plant provides what is known as advanced secondary treatment wherein the water discharged to the river must meet stringent standards set by the State. Part of the treatment process uses chlorine to kill bacteria which remain in the waste stream. Following that process, the water passes through a de-chlorination process to remove excess chlorine before discharge to the river.

UCS/UCH recently presented its nearly final plans for its addition to the Bennington Rec Center on land it will lease from the Town. On May 13, in open session, the Select Board discussed a proposed lease that had been carefully vetted by Town counsel and after discussion, the Board unanimously voted to approve the lease. This will bring children and families closer to a recreational asset and will build the capacity of the Rec Center to be a true community center. UCS/UCH will construct the addition using its own monies and Federal funds granted for that purpose. No town funds will be used for this work. The Town is looking into some minor modifications of the fitness/weight room and adjoining offices to improve that space for our users. At this writing estimates are not available.

For those of you following the Police Department Assessment suggested by the Attorney General, our consultant, Curtiss Reed, Vermont Partnership for Diversity and Fairness, is leading the committee through a selection process the uses a combined scoring system to rate the firms submitting proposals. The committee consists of two Select Board members, the Town Manager, and the Assistant Manager. The Police Chief is a participant but does not vote. We hope to finish our work soon with the selection of a firm. Mr. Reed will report to Select Board on this work. The selected firm will perform the assessment and report to the Board and the public when it has completed its tasks. The tasks include a review of current policies and practices, a determination to what extent systemic racial bias is present and recommend changes and improvements to address shortcomings identified.

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.