Town Manager’s Column – April 2021

ALL ABOUT TOWN

Stuart A. Hurd, Town Manager

On April 12, the Board and members of the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation (VT DEC) met in a zoom meeting with those interested and concerned about the proposed reclassification of the groundwater where PFOA contaminated many wells in Bennington, North Bennington, and parts of Shaftsbury. Although municipal water was able to be extended to many of the properties at Saint-Gobain’s expense, approximately 175 properties were not served, either because the municipal systems could not provide water due to engineering logistics or because the well water was not contaminated and is not contaminated now. It is these home owners that are the most concerned fearing a reduction in property value should the groundwater be considered non-potable even though their wells are clean. The reclassification would provide for new, more stringent well drilling guidelines if municipal water in not within 200 feet. If municipal water is within 200’, the owner must connect to the municipal system. The cost for each alternative falls to the property owner. One can understand the concerns of those impacted. They did not create the problem but must bear the burden of the solution. The Select Board encouraged the VT DEC to look for ways to connect those who wish to be connected and provide other solutions for those who can not be connected at the State’s expense perhaps using American Rescue Plan monies or new federal monies recently passed by Congress. .I can say that the folks at VT DEC are listening and looking at all options. The comment period has been extended to May 28.

At the last Select Board meeting, I indicated that staff are now looking at the possibility of re-opening the Town Offices in some fashion in May. Although we are open by appointment for some uses, we are following the Governor’s guidance on mask wearing, distancing, and numbers given our relatively cramped quarters. As of this writing, all office staff have been vaccinated which may offer greater flexibility in how we serve our customers. Please know that mask wearing will continue to be a requirement until such time as the pandemic is officially over.

Bennington remains a very high risk area for infections from COVID. It’s now been more than one year since COVID became a reality here in Vermont. The vaccines are a blessing, but we can’t let our guard down. The Governor has done a very good job of keeping us informed and slowly reopening the economy and allowing us to gather once again. Please don’t jump the gun. Please don’t get careless. Infections are more prevalent among the younger population now and, unfortunately, people can get very sick. Deaths are climbing. Please be careful. We all will be better for it.

The very positive work continues on the Police reformation effort. The Select Board sub-committee and its volunteers have now adopted 8 revised policies. They are beginning on the second phase of policy review taking on a Social Media Policy and a Special Events Policy, now scheduled for April 26th. The leadership of the BPD has now added the procedures to each of these newly adopted policies. They have posted them for 10 days for public review, and on April 19th, the public comment period will commence and last until April 28th.

Let me remind everyone that Green Up Day is May 1. Bags are available at the Town Offices. Please call to arrange to collect them and let us know the area you’ll be working in. This will facilitate pick up by our DPW crews after the fact. The Household Hazardous Waste Collection Day is scheduled for May 8 from 9 AM until 1 PM at the MAU Middle School. Please have your materials easily accessible in the vehicle and wear a mask when approaching the staff and collection areas.

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.