Town Manager’s Column – January 2018

Stuart A. Hurd, Town Manager

It’s been a very busy time. I just realized I didn’t do a column in December.

I am pleased to tell you the Select Board has finished the budget process. The Board finalized a budget that calls for a $0.0226 increase in the overall tax rate, that’s a 1.98% increase based on last year’s Grand List. The budget includes funding for the Bennington County Regional Commission, the Bennington Free Library, the John McCullough Library, North Bennington recreation, Lake Paran and, new this year, the Bennington Rescue Squad. There are 13 other agencies seeking an additional $129, 300 in funding. They will be on the ballot. If all are approved, the tax rate will increase another $0.0126.

This year, the ballot will include a petitioned article that established a process moving Bennington toward a mayoral form of government. Unlike past years, this is not an advisory vote. If approved, this article will be forwarded to the Legislature for adoption. It will amend Bennington’s “Constitution” as our former Town Clerk, Tim Corcoran, liked to call our Charter. If you read this article, it is specifically designed to do away with the Manager’s position replacing the Manager with an elected Mayor, one who “has the power to veto any action of the Select Board”. It doesn’t contain any veto override provisions thereby rendering the Select Board, the remaining elected representatives of your community powerless. In my opinion, that is a recipe for disaster. Good government relies on the checks and balances between the legislative and administrative functions of the government. There are two public hearings scheduled on this article, January 29 and February 5, both at 6 pm at the Bennington Fire Facility.

The contracts to extend municipal water to residents of North Bennington and Bennington in the area known as Phase 1 are in Winter shutdown. Work will start again this Spring. In the area known as Phase 2, the engineering firm hired by Saint-Gobain has submitted a report to the Agency of Natural Resources which it believes releases Saint-Gobain from responsibility for the contamination in the easterly side of Town. The Agency disagrees and is reviewing the data as this is written. A decision by the Agency may come in February. This is certainly not over.

Work continues on the new home for the Public Works Department. We are now occupying the structure, but work remains to be completed in the interior. The salt/sand shed still has a small amount of work needed before we can use it. The fuel depot is in place and operational. Once we’re fully relocated, the two old garages will then be available for reuse. You will recall that the Town plans to develop a Request for Proposals (RFP) to gain an understanding of the interest in the buildings and what uses might be planned.

The Charter Review Committee has completed its work. The Select Board is reviewing the Report and proposed changes at its regularly scheduled meetings with an eye to a Charter change vote in early June 2018.The Report is published on the website and available at the Town Offices.

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.