All About Town – Town Manager Stuart Hurd

Stuart A. Hurd, Town Manager

As part of the Town’s effort to improve recreational programming for people of all ages, we have begun to take a look at our Senior Center, its relationship to the agencies that serve seniors, its relationship to the Y and the fitness programming for adults it offers, and to the long-term space needs for those who use the Center. Recently, representatives from the Town and several agencies toured the space available at the former Benn Hi on Main Street. The area reviewed consisted of several former classrooms and the cafeteria/auditorium. There is much work to do to make these spaces useable and comfortable, but there is no question that there is more space than currently at the Center on Pleasant Street. If an agreement can be reached among the agencies that toured with us and the owner of the building who would be asked to finish the spaces to our desired standards, there is an opportunity to expand the programs for seniors and bring additional services to them in partnership with these agencies.

Of course, with any contemplated changes, the rumor mill begins to churn. Please be assured that these efforts are exploratory in nature; that no specific plans have been made; that there is much work to do before a plan can be outlined for the public including costs, participants, and programs. The Select Board is committed to improving programs for seniors as well as children and young adults. These efforts take time; these efforts take planning; these efforts may include dreaming; and these efforts may change direction and scope as we move forward. An example is the discussions that developed a possible expansion of the Rec Center to include a second story and a gymnasium at an estimated cost of $7.0 million or more. Then the Benn Hi building was purchased by an individual and an offer to use some of its spaces including the gymnasium and the cafeteria wing was made to the Town. The cost to renovate these spaces is to be borne by the owner, not the Town. Does it make sense to explore this option? Of course, it does. The community gains the spaces envisioned in the first plan without having to bond for the costs. This also helps to bring a vacant historic structure back to productive use. Let’s see what comes.

At its most recent meeting, the Board completed the Police Department policies it deemed important to review as part of the reformation of the Department. The Department’s leadership is now completing the procedures that accompany the policies. When completed, all will be published on the BPD website.

The Board has begun to interview candidates for the Safety and Equity Taskforce which is being established to review the need for a citizen committee to oversee/advise the Police Department. Appointments should be made by the time you read this. The Taskforce will then begin its work with the help of the National Association for Citizen Oversite of Law Enforcement (NACOLE).

On Monday September 20th, Jonah Spivak joins the team as our new Communications Coordinator. He has already mapped out his first three months on the job so we expect you will see him around. We are excited to have Jonah join us. His boundless enthusiasm and love of Bennington is very evident.

Our four new police officers are off to the first training program. They will return for a short time and then head off to the Police Academy in October for 19 weeks of training to become Level III certified. We wish them every success.