Town Manager’s Column – June 2017

ALL ABOUT TOWN

Stuart A. Hurd, Town Manager

 

At its first meeting in May, the Select Board announced the formation of a seven (7) member Charter Review Commission. Applications now total twelve (12). The Board has planned on a seven-member committee. The process to select appointees has not been set just yet. Although the Select Board has not worked out its charge to the Commission, the areas of the Charter that may be reviewed include the Select Board’s powers and authority, whether current elected officers, the Town Clerk, the Treasurer, and the Moderator, should remain as elected or changed to appointed as now allowed by State law, the Manager’s duties and responsibilities, whether the Downtown Taxing District purposes and powers should be amended and whether the Downtown Improvement District Map should become set by the Select Board, whether the Town’s current governing structure should be changed, and whether a 1% local option sales tax should be adopted for Bennington. The Select Board retains the final authority on what changes should be put before the voters in March 2018 or beyond.

The work on the development of a Tax Increment Financing District (TIF) will begin later this month. The consulting firm, White and Burke, is the pre-eminent firm for this type of work. We wish to develop a TIF District within our downtown and gather the necessary data and documentation to support it. 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 incremental increase in the Grand List due to the new development which then allows for the use of increasing education tax funds so that there is no impact on the taxpayers.

The negotiations between Saint-Gobain and the State continue. It now appears that there may be movement towards a resolution for those wells contaminated and located west of the railroad tracks that run to North Bennington from Bennington. There is disagreement between the State and Saint-Gobain for those properties east of the railroad tracks. Saint-Gobain continues to point to the former Houghton Lane landfill which was closed under EPA guidelines in 1999. Saint-Gobain’s engineering firm is developing plans to test soils and ground water in this area, including the former landfill. The Town is awaiting a review of those plans by the State and EPA before signing on.

You may have noticed work on a new solar farm progressing on the easterly side of Route 7 south just across from the Sheriff’s Department. This development by Encore Redevelopment will provide reduced cost electricity to the Town’s Wastewater Treatment Plant. When completed, all of the Town’s electricity will be provided by two renewable energy sources through net-metering agreements. The other source is the hydro facility at the Papermill Bridge operated by Bill Scully. Pretty cool, if you ask me.

We continue to move forward with necessary work at the Wastewater Treatment Facility to get ready for the bond vote in October. When successful, we will then complete the necessary upgrade of the Plant. Some of the work underway may create odors from time to time. We are working hard to mitigate that and avoid any other problems this work may create.

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.