Town Manager’s Column – December 2018

Stuart A. Hurd, Town Manager

Happy Holidays everyone! This will be the last All About Town for 2018. I know I said that last month, but I ‘ve found a little time to close out the year.

The Putnam Redevelopment Project continues to move forward albeit at a Winter’s pace. We look forward to the construction in Phase 1, the historic buildings including the Pennysaver building, the Putnam building and the Winslow building. This activity is a welcome change to the intense effort that it took to pull the necessary funding together. I understand that closing activities continue as well.

The design for Phase 2 of the municipal water line extensions into the northeasterly portion of the PFOA contamination area is now underway. This is great news and indicates that negotiations are moving in a positive direction. The PFOA crisis rocked this community, but we’re fighting through it. This community is very resilient. I look forward to construction in this area in the Spring 2019. Concerns raised about senior citizens and others not being able to afford municipal water should be set aside. The Town works very closely with those struggling financially to insure the affordability of this important service.

Along these lines, it has been said that the sale of Morgan Springs water is a bad thing. The sale of the water generates approximately $100,000 annually for the water system. That’s money the ratepayers need not raise. Currently, we sell our water to our customers, the ratepayers, for $0.005 per gallon. We sell the Morgan Spring water to Vermont Pure for $0.0075 per gallon. Beginning January 1, 2019, the price increases to $0.0095 per gallon for the remaining 4 years of the current contract. It is important to note that the Town has identified a new site for water pick-ups. It is the vacant lot at 747 Main Street now owned by Scarafoni. The Town recently received preliminary Development Review Board approval for this relocation. Plans are to restrict truck traffic to access the site from the east only using Route 279 and provide for a pass-through access so that no backing movements are planned. Route 9 averages some 6,000 vehicle trips each day. Our due diligence continues. A closing on the property may occur in January 2019.

At a recent meeting, a resident chastised the Select Board for the lack of jobs available in the community. Last month, the unemployment rate in Bennington was 2.5%. Both the retail service sector and local industries are looking for help. Jobs are available. Finding individuals to fill those jobs remains difficult.

The decision to enter into an exploratory agreement with the Berkshire YMCA is generating some concern among current users about rates and some in the community who worry that the Town will give away its Recreation Center. This management agreement with the Northern Berkshire YMCA is a one-year agreement allowing the parties to understand what is offered, if the offerings can be enhanced, and if new programs can be identified. At the end of the year, the parties will review the effort and determine next steps. All current Town employees remain with the Town. Rates will not change during this time. There is no intention to sell the facilities. Town ownership remains paramount.

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.