Town Manager’s Column – May 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 may be obtained from the Town’s web site or from the Town Offices. Applications should be submitted to the Manager’s Office at 205 South street no later than May 22nd. 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 Map should become set by the Select Board or as by Charter, 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.

The Board also voted to hire a consulting firm to assist with development of a Tax Increment Financing District (TIF). The consulting firm, White and Burke, is the pre-eminent firm for this type of work. Although the Legislature has not formally approved more districts above the current cap, we are optimistic that this will happen. We wish to be ready to go so as to identify a TIF District within our downtown and develop the necessary data and documentation to support the creation of a TIF District here. Under current legislation, an application for a TIF District 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. It is a lengthy process. You’ll be hearing and reading much more on this should the Legislature remove the current cap.

The negotiations between Saint-Gobain and the State continue. It now appears that there may be movement towards a resolution for those homes contaminated and located west of the railroad tracks that run to North Bennington from Bennington. There is disagreement for those homes east of the railroad tracks. Saint-Gobain continues to point to the former Houghton Lane landfill which was closed under EPA guidelines in 1999. I remain hopeful that some work will start in 2017. I also firmly believe that the former landfill plays no role in the PFOA contamination. I am happy to say that the State agrees with me and is working with EPA to confirm that.

On May 20th, the Bennington County Solid Waste Alliance will hold its Spring Household Hazardous Waste Collection Day from 8 AM until 1 PM at the Bennington transfer station on Houghton Lane. On that same day, at Willow Park, Youth Appreciation Day will take place from noon to 4 pm.

The town-wide Hydrant Flushing begins Monday May 15th and runs until Friday May 26th. This is a State-mandated program which must be done every Spring and Fall. Some resident may experience low water pressure and/or discolored water. These are normal side effects that do not cause any health concerns. If you experience any of these, it is recommended that you refrain from doing any light-colored laundry (between 7:00am-5:00pm) and run your Cold Water ONLY until it runs clear.

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.