Town Manager’s Column – November 2018

Stuart A. Hurd, Town Manager

Happy Holidays everyone! This will be the last All About Town for 2018. It’s amazing that another year has slipped by. This has been an incredibly busy year. We have much to be thankful for and much to look forward to in the coming year. I’ll touch on some of these efforts in this column.

The Putnam Redevelopment Project has pretty much completed the demolition phase of the former Greenberg buildings. We look forward to the construction in Phase 1, the historic buildings including the Pennysaver building, the Putnam building and the Winslow building. This activity is a welcome change to the intense effort that it took to pull the necessary funding together. Congratulations to all the partners. Thank you for your perseverance and commitment to our community.

The design for Phase 2 of the municipal water line extensions into the northeasterly portion of the PFOA contamination area is now underway. This is great news and indicates that negotiations are moving in a positive direction. The PFOA crisis rocked this community. Thankfully, the State of Vermont, through the Department of Environmental Conservation, reacted quickly to help us find a solution. I look forward to construction in this area in the Spring 2019. Concerns raised about senior citizens and others not being able to afford municipal water should be set aside. The Town works very closely with those struggling financially to insure the affordability of this important service.

Three park projects are underway. The pump track at Stark Street playground, sponsored by the Bennington Area Trail System (BATS), is now in the construction phase. I understand they are looking for material to get underway as soon as possible. Construction of the splash pad, an interactive water feature, at Merchants Park began this Fall. Work will be completed in the Spring. Additional funding is still being sought to complete the park’s amenities, including a stage, a public restroom, landscaping, benches, walkways and an art installation. And at long last, the Park at 336 Main Street is underway. We look forward to the completion of these projects in the Spring.

The Select Board, after listening to the presentation by representatives of Fed Up Vermont and the Turning Point Recovery Center at its November 12th meeting, pending Town Counsel’s opinion, has decided to join in a lawsuit against the pharmaceutical companies brought to the attention of the Board by Fed Up Vermont. This group, made up of a number of individuals who have seen first hand the devastation this crisis can cause, spoke powerfully of their experiences. It was moving and inspiring. We will review the proposed retainer agreement before proceeding.  It will not be resolved quickly.

The Select Board at its last meeting voted to enter into a management agreement with the Northern Berkshire YMCA to oversee the operations and programs of the Bennington Recreation Center for the coming year. It will cost the Town $3600 per month. Jessica Rumlow, Associate Director of the Berkshire Y, will be appointed the interim executive director of the Recreation Center. It is a one year agreement allowing the parties to understand what is offered, if the offerings can be enhanced, and if new programs can be identified. At the end of the year, the parties will review the effort and determine next steps. All current Town employees remain with the Town. Rates will not change during this time.

Please don’t try to tell me these are not exciting times.

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.