Town Manager’s Column – June 16, 2021

ALL ABOUT TOWN

Stuart A. Hurd, Town Manager

Another marathon Select Board meeting June 14, our last Board meeting via zoom now that the Governor has rescinded his Emergency Order. Imagine that Vermont was the first state in the Union to reach the 80% vaccinated magic number. It doesn’t mean COVID is over or really behind us. It just means that most of us are vaccinated therefore allowing somewhat of a return to normalcy. I urge all who are unvaccinated to get the vaccine. COVID is still a terrible virus, and the new delta strain is highly contagious.

At the last Select Board meeting, the Board voted nearly unanimously to apply for two $500,000 grants to support two recovery housing projects, one on North Street, the other on Gage Street. I thought this hearing was informative and the discussion very meaningful. Recovery housing is developed for those seeking to recover from substance and/or alcohol abuse disorders. It includes not only a place to live, but also provides programs and counseling to help those living in the home find a path to true recovery. There are strict rules, random testing, help finding steady work, and an atmosphere of like-thinking individuals. It is important to remember that the individuals living in these homes are there to recover; to become participating members of a substance free society. It is a first step in addressing the scourge of substance abuse that, unfortunately pervades our society. The least we can do is allow these homes to develop and try to help.

The very positive work continues on the Police reformation effort. The Select Board working through its sub-committee and its volunteers have now adopted 11 revised policies. These policies are all available on the Town’s website. On June 14th, the Board voted to enter into a contract with the National Association for Civilian Oversight of Law Enforcement (NACOLE) to help the community develop a Safety and Equity Committee for that purpose. The Board, with NACOLEs assistance, will establish an 11-member task force to develop the name, scope, structure, membership, and responsibilities of the new committee. It is anticipated that this effort will take a minimum of six months. Applications and interviews for the task force membership will begin next month and conclude in September. The task force will begin its work in September scheduled to conclude in February of 2022.

This week we celebrate the re-opening of the Town Offices, the Senior Center and other Town facilities. Although most of us have been working throughout the pandemic, the buildings access has been restricted. So welcome back. Please follow the rules established for each building.

In other good news, fireworks will be held this year at Willow Park, July 4th beginning at dusk (9:15 pm or so). We ask those that remain unvaccinated to wear a mask and socially distance for their own safety. This August 15th, we welcome back the Bennington Battle Day parade. The Home Brew Fest is returning on August 7th. The Splash Pad is open and is being enjoyed by many in the community. Other events will be coming along as well as we slowly and carefully return to normal.

At its June 14th meeting, the Board also approved the creation of a Communications Coordinator position. This will be a full-time position working out of the Community Development Department. This position has been created to increase our communications capabilities, provide greater transparency, and assist in the upgrade of our web sites and the use thereof. A job posting should be posted soon. We hope to have the position filled in July of this year.

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.