Town Manager’s Column – September, 2017

ALL ABOUT TOWN

Stuart A. Hurd, Town Manager

Many of you may have seen my Letter to the Editor seeking support for the October 10 bond vote.
A reader pointed out to me that I had not mentioned the Assurance of Discontinuance in strong enough terms. Those of you who may be contemplating a “no” vote are reminded that the Assurance carries with it the threat of fines if we don’t complete mandated upgrades. It is unfortunate, but we do find ourselves facing, not only the cost to construct, but also fines to be paid to the State should we not complete the work in a timely manner. The Assurance of Discontinuance arose from the RBC failures in 2015 which, in turn, caused violations of our discharge permit. During that difficult time, the waste water staff worked very hard to keep the Plant within its permit limits. It simply could not be done. That brings us to this moment. We can support the bond vote and do the work, or we can vote “no” and still be mandated to do the work and, on top of that be fined. Regardless of the threat of fines, this work is necessary and must be done. We’ve pared the project down to the most needed, high priority work. We’ve committed to some of the work in-house saving some $2.0 million in construction cost. And we’re bonding when the rates are fairly low. The bond costs do not affect the rates until two (2) years after substantial completion or not until FY 2021. Now really is the time to move forward. I hope you will support the Town. Vote “yes”. The Walloomsac River thanks you. We thank you.

The TIF Plan has now been approved by the Select Board. The application is scheduled to be submitted by the end of September. I am very hopeful that it will be approved. That’s what makes this moment very exciting. The Town will be able to construct necessary public infrastructure such as improved sidewalks, improved pedestrian spaces, improved public parking, improved storm water systems, and the like all to benefit the community and all to be paid for from funds raised through the incremental growth in the Grand List within the TIF District, said growth being the result of new developments tied to the improved infrastructure. The Town is committing 100% of the local incremental increase, and requesting that the maximum, 70%, of the education fund incremental increase be committed to paying for the infrastructure. The Plan does not contemplate raising local taxes. That’s why this is such an important development tool.

The construction contracts for the Phase 1 PFOA water line extensions have been awarded. There are 4 contracts for the Bennington work totaling $11.14 million. Work is anticipated to start in October. This will mean construction in and along many of our rural roads in the northwesterly portion of Bennington. Please exercise care and patience when moving through construction zones. This is a major undertaking. It will create problems for traffic movements. In the area considered Phase 2, the northeasterly portion of Bennington, soil sampling and water testing are about to begin. Drilling rigs will be along the roadsides and at the Houghton Lane former landfill site. This activity is being paid for by Saint-Gobain. The company is conducting this work to further define how the groundwater moves in this area and determine if the soils show trace contamination. The results should help to identify the cause of PFOA contamination in this area.

The Charter Review Committee continues its work. It has established a comment page for the web site. The Committee wants to hear from the community. It will hold a forum at 5:30 pm on Wednesday September 27 at the Bennington Fire Facility. Please let your voice be heard. If you’ve got an idea or a suggestion on how Bennington’s Charter should be revised, let the Committee know.

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.