Town Manager’s Column – (April 2017)

Stuart A. Hurd, Town Manager

At its first meeting in April, the Select Board re-elected Tom Jacobs as Chair and elected Donald Campbell as Vice Chair. Carson Thurber and Chad Gordon took their seats at the Board. The Board set up the process for appointments to Boards and Commissions. If you are interested in serving your community in this manner, please contact my office. We can let you know what openings there are and help you understand the process. A very brief application form has been developed for those folks who are not incumbents. It should help move the process along.

Last year, at this time, my column focused on the newly emerging problem of PFOA contamination in private wells. Now a year later, we are nearly finished with the design of municipal water system expansions, and the State is making headway in negotiations with Saint-Gobain. I remain hopeful.

The Town recently entered into a contract with BCIC to have it become the primary economic development driver in this region. For too many years, the Town, BCIC, the Bennington Downtown Alliance (BDA, formerly BBC), and others all struggled to develop clear and concise roles for our organizations to make our economic development activities focused and worthwhile. With the newly reinvigorated BCIC, we feel comfortable handing the reins over to its staff to lead the way. Our search for a new Community Development Director is now underway. The redefined position focuses on community improvements, marketing, grants, and assistance to improve the housing stock and to new and expanding businesses through the Town’s various loan programs. The individual selected will, of course, work closely with the staff at BCIC, BDA, and the Chamber on economic development strategies.

Fund raising is underway to support the Town’s annual Bennington in Bloom effort. Every year, we work with Sweet William Garden Design to fill the planting beds, urns, and hanging baskets to make Bennington come alive with the color and beauty flowers provide. Donations are welcome and may be made payable to the Town of Bennington, Bennington in Bloom.

In other news, the Putnam Redevelopment Group is planning an “open house” for the Putnam Block. It is planned for Thursday May 4th at the Oldcastle Theater. The Group is nearing the purchase of the entire block with plans to renovate the historic structures and construct new buildings where the former Greenberg’s hardware and lumber yard existed. This massive revitalization project is a most important economic development boost for the entire region. It is sure to spur other developments.

On the education front, the SVSU is, once again, appointing a formal study committee to develop a plan for the consolidation of the elementary school districts and MAU into a K–12 school district. This new effort formalizes the work of an informal group with representation from all the districts. It is exciting to see this effort coming to fruition. The plan now being formalized is based on the Mount Anthony model, a consolidated Board that has worked well for 50 years.

On May 20th, a Saturday, the Bennington County Solid Waste Alliance will hold its Spring Household Hazardous Waste Collection Day from 8 AM until 1 PM at the Bennington transfer station on Houghton Lane. On that same day, at Willow Park, Youth Appreciation Day will take place.

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.