Town Manager’s Column – October 2019

ALL ABOUT TOWN

Stuart A. Hurd, Town Manager

At last Monday night’s Select Board meeting, two important actions took place. First, the Town and the Berkshire Y agreed to enter into a management agreement for the operation and program development at the Bennington Recreation Center. The first year transition plan went very well. New programs have been created for the users of the Recreation Center and the Senior Center. The new agreement is for three (3) years at a cost equivalent to or less then what the Town was paying its equivalent staff when it was at full staff prior to the passing of our former Director. Eventually all part-time Town staff will be transitioned over to the Y. Our remaining full-time staff person will be relocated to the Town Offices. This is an exciting opportunity for the residents and non-residents of Bennington. The second important action the Select Board took was to freeze all Recreation Center fees and rates for the coming year. Next October/November, the Board will take a look at all rates and fees with an eye to reducing the current taxpayer subsidy of the Center and its operations. If program fees and memberships continue to increase, the Town will be able to reduce what the taxpayers now pay towards this facility and the programs. That’s the goal. The Board also asked that Town management reach out to surrounding communities who’s residents currently use the Center to see if there is any interest in providing funding to support their residents use of the Center thus helping reduce the overall need to raise rates and fees to support the Center.

The Stark Street playground and the Park at 336 Main have been substantially completed. Both sites are wonderful additions to the community’s recreational and contemplative assets.

The Police Department Assessment conducted by IACP (the International Association of Chiefs of Police) has begun in earnest and is expected to be completed in 4 months. IACP was in Town in October to conduct interviews with officers and with the public. It will return the week of November 3rd to conclude individual interviews and conduct focus groups within the Department and on Tuesday November 5th and Thursday November 7th conduct two focus groups for the public at the Second Congregational Church from 6 pm until 8 pm. The date for the completion of the on-line survey has been extended until Saturday November 16th. You will find the survey at https://www.surveymonkey/r/IACPBennington.

At last Monday’s Select Board meeting, the Board and the public heard in detail about the repair/replacement of Bridge 6 (the one adjacent to The Miller’s Toll) now scheduled for 2023. You may wonder why we’re talking about this so early in the process. The Select Board needs to make a decision on whether to repair or replace the bridge before design can begin. It appears that total replacement is the best engineering and the most economical solution for the long term. Total replacement means that Route 9 will be closed to through traffic for a maximum 60 days. The Board will discuss again at its November 11th meeting. The Town’s share is 5% or about $160,000. If you have any ideas, concerns, or comments, please contact me at the address and phone number below.

The Town now owns 747 Main Street, the site of the proposed Morgan Spring delivery system. Working with MSK Engineering, we designed the new system to minimize impacts on our neighbors. The design provides for drive through service eliminating backing movements. We continue discussions on how to fund the construction. Remember, we sell the water to commercial bottlers for approximately twice the cost per gallon that we charge our ratepayers. The revenue generated from these sales, approximately $100,000 last year, lowers the rates we charge to our ratepayers.

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.