Town Manager’s Column – August, 2017

Stuart A. Hurd, Town Manager

At its first meeting in May, the Select Board announced the formation of a seven (7) member Charter Review Commission. The Committee is made up of the following: Jon Cohen, Robert Ebert, Lynn Green, Michael Keane, Dan Malmborg, Sean Marie Oller, and Rob Plunkett. The Committee has held two meetings to date. It is establishing a comment page for the web site. The Committee wants to hear from the community. It will hold a forum as well. Its first presentation will be at the August 28th Select Board meeting. 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. One may also get comments to the Committee through my office.

The work on the development of a Tax Increment Financing District (TIF) is well underway. A recent public forum was held to introduce the District map and plan to the community. It is now on the Town’s web site and on its Facebook page. We are working with the consulting firm, White and Burke, the pre-eminent firm for this type of work. I heard recently that the TIF will raise taxes for all. That is not the case. The TIF uses the incremental increase in the Grand List (assessed values for real estate) created by new development to pay for the new public improvements such as improved lighting, public parking, new plantings and parks. The Bennington home owner will not see an increase in his/her taxes if the TIF is approved. I have also heard that the TIF is being confused with a 1% increase in the State sales tax. That, too, is not the case. It is important in this process that the community understand the impacts of the District and what it offers. To restate: The approval sought is to allow the Town to incur debt for the identified infrastructure improvements, roads, lighting, sidewalks, storm sewers, parking, etc., which will then stimulate development in the District. The debt incurred is then paid off utilizing a portion of the increased education taxes raised by the incremental increase in the Grand List due to the new development. There is no impact on the taxpayers.

The negotiations between Saint-Gobain and the State have resulted in a partial settlement. Phase 1 is a resolution for those wells contaminated and located west of the railroad tracks that run to North Bennington from Bennington. Municipal water will be extended to all home owners in the area encompassing the Village of North Bennington and the northwestern part of Bennington, Jennings Drive, Gypsy Lane, Silk Road, Bard Road, Austin Hill Road, Murphy Road, and North Bennington Road. There is disagreement between the State and Saint-Gobain for those properties east of the railroad tracks. Saint-Gobain continues to point to the former Houghton Lane landfill which was closed under EPA guidelines in 1999. Saint-Gobain’s engineering firm has developed plans to test soils and ground water in this area, including the former landfill. The Town is awaiting a review of those plans by the State and EPA before signing on.

We continue to move forward with necessary work at the Wastewater Treatment Facility to get ready for the bond vote on October 10th, 2017. A presentation by the Town’s engineers will be made at the August 28th Select Board meeting. A second public hearing will be held on October 2. The current estimated cost for the entire project is just under $10 million. Should the vote be successful, the necessary work will begin as soon as possible. It will most likely take two construction seasons to complete all the work.

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.