Town Manager’s Column – November 2020

ALL ABOUT TOWN

Stuart A. Hurd, Town Manager

At its October 26th meeting, the Select Board unanimously adopted the new policy on Displays, Signs, and Art on Public Property. The policy, originally drafted by municipal counsel, Merrill Bent, is a very detailed document which outlines the process one must take to get permission to create public art and/or statements on public property. It is not intended to control such works on private property. It allows for a petition to also bring the desired work before the Board. It provides very specific guidance on design and installation and maintenance requirements after installation. It makes clear that the decision to approve the work rests solely with the Board.

The Board has continued working with Police Department leadership and the community to implement improvements recommended by the IACP Report. The Community Policing Working Group has created a process in which a Policy Advisory Committee made up of 4 citizens, a Select Board member, a Police Officer, and a Town staff member develop and recommend policies to the Select Board and Chief of Police. Officer Ferrara is a committee member. Dan Monks, Assistant Manager also serves on the committee as does Bruce Lee Clark, who acts as Chair. Four different community members meet with the three members listed above to review each designated policy. The work is scheduled to conclude in April 2021. It is expected that the first three policies reviewed will come before the Select Board on November 23. They are Use of Force, Duty to Respond, and Use of Electronic Weapons. Meanwhile, the Police leadership (all supervisors) will get more training from the Vermont Partnership for Fairness and Diversity before this year is out.

On the PFOA front, we are seeing light at the end of the tunnel for most of the remaining work. Contract 5 (Harwood Hill) is substantially complete except for the Sky Top units which are being worked on this week. Contract 6 (Apple Hill area) is substantially complete except for a road crossing on Route 7. Contract 7 (Willow Road. Marion Lane, Autumn Acres, and Carpenter Lane) is substantially complete. Contracts 8 and 9 remain to be completed (East Road, Chapel Road). Construction projects throughout the community began back in 2017. When concluded, Bennington will have brought municipal water to 352 affected properties.

The Governor has now restricted travel for leisure activity requiring travelers who enter the State or return to the State to quarantine. Please check the ACCD website for further details. The virus remains very active and the numbers of infected are increasing. We read every day of a new cluster of infections. As an employer, the Town of Bennington is exercising care in the decision to reopen. The Town Office remains on an appointment only visitation protocol. We are monitoring our employees’ travel plans to ensure that all safety protocols are followed upon an employee’s return. We, in Vermont, have done a pretty good job keeping the virus somewhat at bay. Unfortunately, it’s not over so be careful; stay safe; stay healthy.

There is a new program started by the State with CARES funds. It recognizes that some residents and businesses may have been unable to pay their utility bills (for the Town, its water and sewer bills) since March 2020. If you are in that category and can show a COVID connection, the State may pay your arrearage to the Town. Please find the press release for more information: https://benningtonvt.org/vermont-covid-19-arrearage-assistance-program/.

And finally, a petition has been filed with the Town Clerk’s office asking the Town to again consider the mayoral question through a Charter change. The wording is the same as was defeated in 2018.

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.