All About Town – Town Manager Stuart Hurd

To view the Town Manager’s November All About Town column, please click here.

Village Cemetery Restoration

Outpouring of Support Restores Historic Village Cemetery!

Dozens of people turned out in the frosty early hours on November 3rd with a common goal: to help re-set as many unbroken gravestones as possible that had been callously cast down by vandals a little over a week ago.

The vandalism was discovered on October 24. Over 200 gravestones had been overturned, and many broken. Flags honoring veterans had been cast down by the perpetrators as they attacked stones in every part of the cemetery. The historic cemetery was established in 1813 and included many born in the 1700s representing some of the earliest settlers of the town. Approximately 2,100 people are laid to rest here.

The shock and outrage over the vandalism echoed throughout the community, and far beyond.

Within two hours of the first story about the vandalism, the calls, emails, and instant messages began coming in fast. “I had people from all over contacting us.” says Jonah Spivak, Communications Coordinator for the Town of Bennington. “They all wanted to know the same thing… how can they help.”

This outpouring of offers inspired RJ Joly, Director of Public Works, to suggest a volunteer day to re-set as many stones as possible.

Volunteers came out from all over to join the team from the Bennington Department of Public Works to reset the stones. From Vermont we had many people from Bennington including the immediate neighborhood, as well as people from Shaftsbury, Halifax, Pownal, Manchester, and more.

Folks from New York came as well, from Hoosick Falls, Schaghticoke, and Cohoes to name a few. The Bennington Police Department came out in force to help, as did members of the Buildings and Grounds Department, the Sewer Department, Town Staff, and the Town Clerks Office.

Special thanks to the VFW who came with an impressive number of volunteers and also generously provided grilled burgers, hot dogs, chips, and drinks to the volunteers. A terrific effort and shout out to Dan McDermott and his large crew that worked tirelessly and came with their own skid steer to add to the heavy equipment on site.

We are grateful to the town of Halifax whose cemetery commissioners Gary Rand and Linda Swanson came loaded with equipment ready to go. A team including Tom Giffin and Kevin Peck and a number of additional members from the Vermont Old Cemetery Association (VOCA) was a tremendous help both in terms of muscle and a wealth of experience in gravestone restoration.

So many volunteers that it’s impossible to name them all… but please know how grateful we are to every one of you. THANK YOU!

The results were impressive… every unbroken stone that had been overturned has been set back up. In addition, many broken stones have been restored. And it was accomplished in record time… by noon the work was completed, and teams of volunteers continued to straighten and fix stones that were out of alignment or had been damaged in previous years.

A team from the Civi Air Patrol (CAP) brought youthful energy to the early afternoon under the eye of their Captain, Jonathan Mercer. The CAP worked hard re-setting stones and cleaning the faces of gravestones that had been hidden by decades of lichen buildup. “Some folks believe teenagers may have been to blame for this” notes Mercer. “It’s important for the community to see these teens are here because they want to help.”

Some stones that were badly broken remain and will be restored during a followup effort scheduled for next May. If you are interested in helping with that work, you can contact the Bennington Communications Coordinator at jspivak@benningtonvt.org.

Sometimes a terrible story can have a positive outcome. This senseless vandalism revealed something important… the resolve of people to stand up together and do the right thing when needed. We are humbled and grateful to the many people and groups who have stepped up to show their care and concern for this venerable historic cemetery.

Village Cemetery Restoration

Just over a week ago, the terrible vandalism was discovered at Village Cemetery on Morgan Street that left 200+ grave stones overturned.

This Thursday, November 3rd, the Town invites those who are interested in volunteering to join us to reset as many unbroken stones as we can.

If you would like to volunteer, come to the cemetery between 8 am and 3 pm. Bring work gloves, and your tool of choice that can range from a broom to a shovel, or even a trowel.

With enough help… we believe we can reset every unbroken stone in one day.

Broken grave stones will be harder. We will inventory those and we have a plan to do that work in May of 2023.

Parking may be difficult in the area, so we ask you to be creative, respectful, and don’t block traffic. The nearest off-street parking lot is at the old Benn Hi building which is within a relatively short walking distance.

We still do not know who the vandals are. We hope someone will come forward with information that can help us find those responsible. The Town has already acted to increase surveillance of the cemetery. If someone tries it again, we will be ready.

Willow Park Playgrounds Delayed

Work on the new playgrounds was interrupted in late September when a number of issues were identified by the playground engineer and playground certification team. The most visible issue was problems with the curbing, but they also included placement of Geotextile material installation, and a punch list of items regarding the new equipment.

Most of the issues are minor, but the curbing is a big project. A complete review of the curbing issue include sub base preparation, grades, reveals, and transition details between the playground and the donor bricks in the lower playground and a new entrance location for the upper playground.

The town has received confirmation that work on the new curbing will begin between October 17 and October 24. Once the work begins it will take 2-3 weeks to complete the curbing and possibly another week to finish the other punch list items. These final steps must be completed before the rubber surfacing for the playgrounds can be poured and the playgrounds completed.

The “poured in place” rubber surface requires sustained temperatures above 40˚ F to effectively install and cure, so we are in a race against time to see if it can be completed before low temperatures push this final step to springtime.

The $500,000 cost of the new playgrounds have been entirely funded through ARPA monies. The Town is committed to ensuring that the project is completed as quickly as possible but in accordance to all specifications and requirements. We greatly appreciate the patience of the community as we work towards finishing this important community resource!

All About Town – Town Manager Stuart Hurd

 

Willow Park Playgrounds Almost Done – But NOT YET!

Picture of playground under construction with the words "Almost Done... but NOT YET!"

The playgrounds at Willow Park are looking good and nearing completion, but they are not yet ready for use.

A big remaining piece is the installation of the poured-in-place rubber at the small playground and large playground pathways. We expect that to happen this week, and it is especially important that the playgrounds are not disturbed during this work. There will be contractor personnel on site overnight while the poured -in-place rubber cures.

Once that is done, we will see the final installation of swings, final landscaping and cleanup work, and then a safety inspection and certification public use.
We hope to announce a completion date very, VERY soon! We will celebrate the re-opening with a ribbon cutting ceremony and we invite you all to join us when that happens.

WE REMAIN INCREDIBLY GRATEFUL to our community who has been so very patient as this amazing renewal of the playgrounds take place.

Town Pool Upgrade

Major overhaul of the town pool drain system replaces the original cast iron drain pipes that were badly degraded.

New floor drains replace the older wall drains. Repairs to the pool are expected to take about a month.

A major overhaul at Rec Center pool — just in time!

Timing is everything. The Town is working with the Carpenter Group and a number of local sub contractors to do a major overhaul of the drain system for the Town pool. And the timing could not be better… as feared, the existing drains were just about ready to fail, so making this fix now prevented what could have been catastrophic if left unattended.

Planning for redoing the drains has been in the works for a while and the end cost will be about $65,000. “The old wall drains were made of cast iron and really starting to degrade” says Mark Sawyer, Assistant Director of Facilities. “Moving the drains to the floor instead of the wall will be much safer and better for avoiding structural problems in the future.”

It’s a big job… removing old drains, concrete cutting through the floor and walls to the filter room, new drains and piping, then pressure testing, new concrete, re-tiling, and finally a special acid wash of everything in preparation of refilling the pool. The total time for completing the work is estimated to be about a month.

Willow Park Update

Work on the Willow Park Playgrounds continues!

The new fitness stations are installed, the pathways sub-base is installed on the lower playground, and the precast concrete curbing installation has started which will probably take the remainder of the week to complete.

Once the curbing is in place, then the “poured-in-place” rubber pathways will occur, followed by wood chip installation!
Barring weather issues, we are probably looking at a minimum of 2-3 weeks of work remaining.

New Electric Mower

New electric mower in use!

The town is now actively using its new electric Green Machine “Rival” mower around Bennington. This is part of the overall effort to both reduce the carbon footprint of the community and save money on fuel and maintenance at the same time.

The town is responsible for mowing a lot of lawns. “This seems to do really well in terms of battery use” notes Chris, who works on the Buildings and Grounds team. “I’ve already done the entire Epstein field and I’m still at 92%.”

One possible issue is how well it can handle thick, wet, grass. “We did have an issue with grass clumping up inside” notes Mark Sawyer, assistant director of Buildings and Grounds, “though we are not sure if it was due to it being a rear-discharge style mower versus a side discharge like the gas powered mowers.”

Share Your Thoughts – Survey on Substance Use in Bennington

The Alliance For Community Transformations Would Like Your Input!

Adults, share your thoughts on youth substance use in Bennington! Your feedback informs our work to address this issue for the health and well-being of our community. Take the survey here: https://forms.gle/vnHvL7m4TFaw1WxW8

As a thank you for completing the survey, you can enter to win a four-pack of tickets to Bennington Cinemas!