Town Manager’s Column – (January 2017)


Stuart A. Hurd, Town Manager

The January 9th Select Board meeting was one of the most exciting meetings in terms of new initiatives. It was also the unveiling of the results of the Citizen Survey. A second meeting is being planned by the Board in February to discuss the written comments many of you added to the Survey. Those, too, have now been released to the public. The Board also discussed local reaction to the downtown Hotel Study now underway.

It is not surprising that some local hotel/motel owners and others are concerned about the study. It is important to understand what we hope to gain from the study. Phase II, the “meat” of what was requested, will provide the consultant’s opinion on the viability of a downtown hotel, its size and likely rate structure and the amenities that may help support it. That’s all we seek. Is it possible? What could it look like? There is no intent on our part to take it any further. We do think this information has value. If Bennington is to seek a Tax Increment Financing district (TIF), new development potential must be understood.

This leads me to the first exciting news. Bennington has tentatively agreed to join a consortium of six or seven municipalities to lobby the Vermont Legislature to eliminate the cap on TIF districts. How is this a benefit? TIF’s provide an infrastructure improvement financing opportunity where voters approve the monies for specific infrastructure improvement projects (street scape, sidewalk, parking facilities are examples) within an identified district that help stimulate private monies development. The increase in the Grand List brought about by the development can then be used to pay down the publicly voted incurred debt. The community gains new development that then helps repay the community’s debt. It is a true win-win proposal.

The next piece of exciting news is the Select Board’s authorization for staff to pursue an option on the Plasan property at 78 Bowen Road for a new Department of Public Works Facility (DPW). Staff have been exploring options for a new facility truly since 2010. A design had been completed and a cost estimate developed, but Tropical Storm Irene (2011) forced the community to spend monies to recover from the storm and strengthen the protection from future storms. This year the Select Board asked the staff to revisit the original design to determine an estimated cost in today’s dollars after visiting the Depot Street facility and viewing the incredibly cramped and deteriorating space. That estimate is $6.7 million. Following that, the staff pursued purchasing an existing building that could accommodate our employees and equipment recognizing this may be an affordable alternative. The Bowen Road property was recently renovated by Plasan making it more energy efficient and modern. We have estimated the cost to acquire the building and construct necessary improvements to be $3.2 million. At current interest rates, the annual bond payment can be entirely accommodated within the FY 2018 Highway Fund budget by restructuring projects costs. The Water Fund would also be restructured to help repay that portion of the debt assigned to the Water Fund from moving Water Department employees and equipment into the new facility. We do not anticipate any rate increase associated with this move. This is a tremendous opportunity for the Town. Our current facilities on Depot Street and Orchard Road are too small, very old, and not worthy of major investment. I note that if this vote is successful, several Town properties will become marketable to help offset the cost of the bond.

If anyone has any questions or suggestions arising from this column or on any town matters, please contact me at 442-1037, at, 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.