Town Manager’s Column: (October 2016)

by Stuart A. Hurd, Town Manager

Vermont DEC has decided to move forward with final design for the municipal water line extensions and improvements. 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 underway. The State is planning to pay for all projects and seek recovery from Saint-Gobain.

The SVSU Act 46 meeting on September 27th, moderated by the Town, went well in my opinion. There was a healthy exchange of information including financial impacts using various options. The financials did not include revenue projections, and were, therefore, consider incomplete. However, it is clear that if the SVSU/MAU schools stay together in some form, there will be a cost benefit to all. If any of the elementary school districts seek to leave MAU, the remaining districts must unanimously approve that. There is much work to do before these necessary votes can happen.

This week, the Town of Bennington WWTF was scheduled to have up to 24 RBC’s back on line. Unfortunately, at this writing, I don’t know how things went. I was out of the office most of the day in Montpelier. I know the gear drives were installed and ready to be started. The contractor was to have a crew in town this week to help with the start up. Once operational, it will take time for the Plant to get back to peak operation. We will meet the State’s compliance deadline of October 30th.

On Monday, October 10th, the Select Board heard a presentation for a solar array on lands north of and adjacent to Murphy Road in Bennington. The owners of the property, the Randall Estate, hope to lease the 4 acres for the array and set the remaining 52 acres aside in perpetuity with a conservation easement and possible connection to the Riverwalk along the Walloomsac River. SVMC is to be the beneficiary of the generated electricity. The Board tabled action until a site visit later in the week. That visit proved most beneficial, and the Board voted to send a letter of no adverse impact to the PSB with the caveat that a continuous review of the screening be included to insure that the project is screened from the east and south along Murphy Road for the life of the project. The PSB must still review the plans and rule on the project.

The Board tabled a study proposal for a downtown hotel. Opposition from two current motel/B&B owners caused some Board members to pause on the idea. The study was to be funded from the Town’s Economic Development Fund at a cost of a maximum $10,000. 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. That information would be helpful as we move forward with plans to improve our downtown and our community.

At an upcoming Board meeting, the Board will review a draft citizen survey which is planned for distribution in November/December of this year. When coupled with the responses to the business survey done last year, it should provide a pretty good picture of where we are now. The results will be complied and become the basis for the Annual Report Card planned for the Town’s Annual Report to be released in February 2017. The goal is to measure the Town’s performance on a number of fronts to indicate how we’re doing as a community and then track those measures going forward.

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.