Town Manager’s Column – May 2018

Stuart A. Hurd, Town Manager

Last night, May 14, a citizen, Sean Marie Oller, raised a question about the Charter ballot not including the concise summary. I indicated that may place the vote in question. This morning Cassie Barbeau, Town Clerk, spoke with the Secretary of State’s Office. It was determined that our ballot is correct, and the vote may go forward. My confusion arose during last night’s meeting because the law differentiates between what must appear in the Warning (my responsibility) and what may appear on the ballot (the Clerk’s responsibility). As it turns out we were both right. The Select Board has set June 5, 2018 for the vote on the complete recommended revised Charter put forth by the Charter Review Committee. Two public hearings have now been held. The first hearing was scheduled for Monday April 23; the second for Monday May 14, both at 6 PM in the public room of the Fire Facility. Both nights were regularly scheduled Select Board meetings, so they were televised live by CAT TV. The Board made no changes to the Warning after the first meeting and voting has begun. Many of the revisions modernize the document, strengthen the role of the Select Board, and enhance the relationship between the Board and the Town Manager. An important change is the inclusion of language which allows the Board to put the question of local option taxes before the voters. This language does not approve any new taxes. It simply allows for a future action should the Board determine that it’s warranted. A second important change extends the downtown improvement district tax to non-owner occupied residences in the district. This will increase the grand list for the district thereby reducing the tax rate to those in the district. However, it will add a tax to some properties that are currently exempt. The thought is that all properties in the district benefit by the district tax and therefore by including rental housing units the tax will be spread over a greater number of properties. If you have questions on the specific changes, please feel free to contact me. A complete copy of the Charter document is available on the Town’s web site, , at the Town Clerk’s Office, and will be placed in each voting booth on June 5th. A copy of the concise summary is available at the Town Offices as well. Following last night’s meeting, Tom Jacobs, Chair of the Board, is now considering a meeting at 6 pm June 4th at the Fire Facility to once again review the changes in the proposed Charter.

On Monday May 14, the Vermont DEC was in Town to conduct two meetings with residents regarding PFOA. The first with those on the easterly side of Town; the second with the general population. Unfortunately, I could not attend those meetings and thus can’t accurately report what happened.

The Summer Program, Camp Green Mountain, provided by the Berkshire Y at the Bennington Recreation Center is accepting applications for camp. This is its second year. The program runs from July 2 until August 24, Monday through Friday, 9 AM until 4:30 PM. and is for grades 1-8. For more information, contact Kathy Mancini at or call 413-663-6529, ext. 245. Information will also be available at the Bennington Recreation Center.

I have recently completed my work on the FY 2019 Water and Sewer Fund budgets including rate increase projections if the budgets are adopted. Rates are projected to increase 2% in the Water Fund and 4% in the Sewer Fund. A full presentation of the budgets will be provided to the Board and the public soon. The Board has tentatively scheduled a work session for Saturday morning June 2 at the Fire Facility to review and possibly adopt both budgets.

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.