Town Manager’s Column – February 2021

ALL ABOUT TOWN

Stuart A. Hurd, Town Manager

It’s that time of year when our March elections are just around the corner. Can Spring be far behind? The FY22 budget placed before the voters, after final disposition by the Select Board, is proposed to increase a mere 1.58%. Its projected impact on the tax rate is an increase of only 2.02%. I wrote about this in detail last month. This month I ask for your support. Please vote “Yes” on Article 1.

Article 2 is a proposal to create a reserve for improving our parks. It’s called a “Penny for Parks”. If approved, it will add a penny ($0.01) to the tax rate to have monies set aside each year to make our parks better. The first major project is the replacement of the Community Built Park. This proposal will generate approximately $100,000 each year and allow us to reduce some of the annual expenditures necessary to maintain the recreational equipment and buildings in our parks. Please vote “Yes” on Article 2.

Article 3 will once again ask the voters to support a mayoral form of government. This question proposes to replace the Manager’s position with an elected Mayor It will politicize the professional management of the Town. Employees will be subject to the whims of an individual elected to serve three years. It will provide a direction to the Town which might change every three years and be entirely different than the direction the Town followed for the last three years. Stability? No. The Mayor would be an equal to the Select Board with an ability to veto Board actions. Really? How is that getting to consensus? Please vote “No” on Article 3.

There are two questions (Articles 4 and 5) relating to the sale, growth, and manufacture of cannabis in the community. These proposals were allowed for consideration by the Vermont Legislature. In order to allow this to happen here in Bennington, the voters must vote “Yes”. It is referred to as an “opt in”. These questions must be considered carefully and thoughtfully. I leave this to the voters.

One last Article that is new this year is Article 6 which asks the voters to approve the Select Board’s annual stipend. Normally voted at the Floor Meeting, this question appears due to the inability to vote town-wide on zoom meeting. A “Yes” vote reduces the annual stipend to $1,300. A “No” vote leaves the annual stipend at its current level $1,400.

The remaining twelve Articles are the Agency requests for funds.

Absentee ballots will be available on February 10th. Contact the Town Clerk’s Office if you wish to vote absentee. The polls will be open in Bennington on March 2 from 7 am until 7 pm if you wish to vote in person. This year North Bennington residents must vote on Town ballot questions at the Bennington Fire Facility as they did in November. Please VOTE.

By the way, have you heard or read about the Grateful Bennington Fund? This is a drive to raise funds to support SVHC’s acquisition and reuse of the SVC campus. Conceived by David Newell and Mike McKenna, it is hoped that the community will financially support this tremendous opportunity. We were all very pleased when SVHC stepped in to purchase the property. Now we are asked to help it succeed. I will be supporting this effort. I hope you will consider helping as well. Any amount will help. You may donate at svhealthcare.org/TheGratefulBenningtonFund or by mailing a check made payable to SVHC Foundation to SVHC Foundation, 100 Hospital Drive, Bennington, VT 05201.

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.