Town Manager’s Column: (November 2016)

shurd3ALL ABOUT TOWN
Stuart A. Hurd, Town Manager

The Citizen Survey is out. It is available on line at https://benningtonvt.org/surveys/. It is also available at the Bennington Free Library and the Bennington Town Offices. To date, nearly 400 citizens have taken the survey. It closes on November 30th allowing staff time to collate the responses for release to the public prior to FY 2018 budget development. This will also be used in conjunction with the last year’s business survey to provide a baseline for the new Annual Report Card, commonly called the Scorecard. It will be part of the Town’s Annual Report.

I have been heartened by recent news stories regarding progress on the SVSU”s Act 46 study group. Although I’ve been unable to attend the last couple of meetings, it appears that common ground is being established and all the districts are moving in a similar direction. This is good news for all. It will be good for our education system if we continue to work together. Good job folks.

At the last Select Board meeting, the Board adopted a new Sidewalk Seating Policy which will be used to allow greater use of the public space on sidewalks by commercial businesses. It is hoped that this will add vitality and interest to the downtown experience.

Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation is moving forward with final design for the municipal water line extensions and improvements in Bennington and North Bennington. This is a massive undertaking considering the close to 100,000 lineal feet of line extensions, pump stations, possible small water tanks, hydrants and connections for the affected homes and businesses. The small water main extension along Northside Drive and Waite Drive is completed. Negotiations continue with Saint-Gobain to determine its role in these very necessary projects. Currently, the State is committed to funding projects and project design.

This week, the Town of Bennington Wastewater Treatment Facility is fully compliant with 24 RBC’s back on line. Two additional units will be on line soon. This will allow the staff to shut down a complete row and perform necessary cleaning and inspections. The plant has 32 units, each row containing 8 units. We are fortunate to have such a talented group of employees at the Plant. They’ve worked very hard to get us through the breakdowns recently suffered.

At the Board’s October 24th meeting, it approved moving forward with a study proposal for a downtown hotel. The study will be funded from the Town’s Economic Development Fund at a cost of $10,500 should the Select Board decide to complete Phase II of the study. It will only move forward if Phase I provides some positive outcomes. We, at the staff level, continue to believe that the data gathered could be helpful in answering the question as to whether or not a hotel is even feasible in our downtown.

The Town’s department heads are preparing Fiscal Year 2018 department budgets for my review. I asked my staff to target a 2% increase in all budgets. In some cases, this may not be possible given trends in certain materials costs. I will then present the total budget to the Select Board, hopefully in early December. The Board will finalize its budget by the end of January for a vote in March 2017.

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.