Town Manager’s Column – October 2020

ALL ABOUT TOWN

Stuart A. Hurd, Town Manager

At its October 12th meeting, the Select Board continued its discussion regarding a policy that is meant to provide guidance and control of displays, signs, and art on public property. The policy, originally drafted by municipal counsel, Merrill Bent, is a very detailed document which outlines the process one must take to get permission to create public art and/or statements on public property. It is not intended to control such works on private property. The Board continues to refine the document. It now requires an individual or group looking to construct a display or signs on public property to secure a sponsor who is a Board member. It allows for a petition to also bring the desired work before the Board. It provides very specific guidance on design and installation and maintenance requirements after installation. It makes clear that the decision to approve the work rests solely with the Board after consultation with other organizations and agencies which are allowed or require a say in the decision.

A decision on the policy may come at the next Board meeting scheduled for October 26th.

The Board has continued working with Police Department leadership and the community to implement improvements recommended by the IACP Report. Three Board members, Jeannie Jenkins, Jeanne Connor, and Bruce Lee Clark head up the committee that has taken the lead in this effort. This Select Board sub-committee is known as the Community Policing Working Group. This Working Group has created a process in which a Policy Advisory Committee made up of 4 citizens, a Select Board member, a Police Officer, and a Town staff member develop and recommend policies to the Select Board and Chief of Police. Officer Ferrara is a committee member. Dan Monks, Assistant Manager also serves on the committee as does Bruce Lee Clark, who acts as Chair. Four different community members meet with the three members listed above to review each designated policy. The work is scheduled to conclude in April 2021. Meanwhile, the Police leadership (all supervisors) will get more training from the Vermont Partnership for Fairness and Diversity before this year is out.

On the PFOA front, we are seeing light at the end of the tunnel for most of the remaining work. It’s focused in the northeast quadrant of Bennington and consist of five contracts. Only two are not expected to be completed by the year end. Construction projects throughout the community began back in 2017. When concluded, Bennington will have brought municipal water to 352 affected properties.

As we enter the fall season, we find ourselves looking forward, but with a cautious eye. The virus remains alive and willing to grow its numbers of infected. Reopening in our State, although slow and cautious continues. At the same time, we read every day of a new cluster of infections. The weather patterns are inconsistent and randomly violent. Travel remains a difficult thing requiring care and tough decisions about where to go and what to do when returning. As an employer, the Town of Bennington is exercising care in the decision to reopen. The Town Office remains on an ” appointment only” visitation protocol. We are monitoring our employees’ travel plans to ensure that all safety protocols are followed upon an employee’s return.

The Governor has continued the COVID emergency to November 15, 2020. Although Vermont is designated as having the most effective response to the pandemic, it too, is seeing an increase in COVID cases. Most states are also seeing a surge in cases as is the world. This is a reminder that we’re not out of the woods with this virus. We are required to wear a mask, stay 6 feet apart whenever possible, and wash our hands regularly. We, in Vermont, have done a pretty good job keeping the virus somewhat at bay. Unfortunately, it’s not over so be careful; stay safe; stay healthy.

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.