Tuesday February 26, 2013

NEAL P. GOSWAMI

Staff Writer

BENNINGTON -- The Bennington Coalition for the Homeless appeared before the Select Board Monday to state that it cannot accept town funds if voters approve its request because the group submitted outdated and inaccurate financial information.

Stacy New, president of the group's board of directors, said the group is in "a desperate financial crisis." The disclosure of financial trouble comes about three weeks after former Executive Director Kendy Skidmore was fired by the group's board.

"We come to announce that we are not going to be able to accept the funds that you so graciously allowed on the ballot for us," New said.

Skidmore had run the coalition for about 13 years and had planned to step down in April, but was forced out by the board early.

New told the Select Board Monday that the paperwork required for groups seeking town funding was "incomplete and incorrect."

"Based on that, we don't think it's fair to the voters of Bennington to vote on that," she said.

The ballots are already printed, however, Bennington Town Manager Stuart A. Hurd said. Voters could still approve the funding request and it could be held until the group completes an audit and submits accurate financial information, he said.

According to New, it will take 30 to 60 days to complete an audit, which the state is assisting with.


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Until the audit is completed, the group is "operating in a very strict financial crisis." She said all vendors and landlords are working with the board of directors.

"We're so grateful for everybody to extend us this time to get our house in order," she said.

The group has closed a housing location in Manchester already. She said that program, known as Price Place, a transition housing space, was fairly new and served only two Bennington residents that were overflow from housing units in Bennington.

A new shelter on North Street is running and full, according to New. She said living situations for all residents have been stabilized.

"No one has been displaced, no one will be displaced because of this," she said.

New pledged transparency with the public as they work to stabilized finances.

"We feel as though, in fairness to the community that we have to be completely open and transparent," she said.

However, New declined to comment on how much debt the group is carrying, or whether the believes any wrongdoing occurred.

The coalition must have its financial information known by June to accept grant funding that will allow it to continue operating, New said. The group cannot currently accept grants, she said, and is in "desperate need of monetary donations."

"We are struggling to meet payroll," she said.

Contact Neal Goswami at ngoswami@benningtonbanner.com. Follow him on Twitter @nealgoswami