NEAL P. GOSWAMI
BENNINGTON -- Former state Rep. Peter J. Brady is hoping to use his experience in the Statehouse as a member of the Select Board to help the town grow.
Brady moved to Bennington in 1968 at the age of 6, and attended local schools. He was appointed in 1995 to fulfill the term of former Rep. Timothy Corcoran when Corcoran was elected town clerk. Brady was then re-elected to the House and served one full term.
Brady said his No. 1 priority on the Select Board would be to help grow quality jobs for local residents.
"Number one is jobs. A lot of the jobs that are here are temp. There's no benefits and they're making minimum wage or just slightly better," Brady said.
Brady said he would like to see the town capitalize on a natural resources. The town currently has a long-term contract to provide spring water to a company. However, Brady said the town should look to keep the lion's share of the profits.
"Right now we're getting 7 cents a gallon from Poland Spring for that water," he said. "It's $3.69 a gallon for that water (at a store). We get 7 cents for that. I'd like to see us start a bottling plant here and build local jobs that pay a livable wage."
Brady said he is also a strong proponent of changing the former Johnson Controls property to a commercial zoning designation. Doing so will help the property develop sooner and provide additional tax revenue and jobs. But, town officials have not trusted the processes in place or the property owner.
"It's been 20 years," Brady said. "(The owner) came in here and built the Kmart. They're all afraid of him. There's a Planning Commission, a review board, they've got to go through a process with the Select Board to get approved. That's where you sit down and make your demands and let them know what you need from them," he said.
The town is losing out on revenue by preventing the property owner from seeking potential commercial tenants, Brady said.
"Right now we're getting $7,000 a year in property taxes from that property. If you develop it, the Walmart property, right now, is bringing in $350,000," Brady said. "I've heard that Target has looked at it in the past, that Best Buy has looked at it, that Costco has looked at it, but nobody wants to get involved because it's zoned (industrial)."
Town officials must start looking at the potential and future for Main Street and concentrate commercial activity on Northside Drive.
"We have a mentality of Main Street versus Northside Drive. I think we can turn Main Street into something along the lines of Church Street (in Burlington)," he said. "Put restaurants, galleries and art spaces."
Residents, especially younger ones, often complain they have nothing to do in Bennington, Brady said. The town should work diligently to acquire the downtown armory used by the Vermont National Guard when it moves to a new location, which is expected in the next several years, he said.
"We could put a youth center there, a league for basketball, Friday night dances," Brady said.
Additionally, residents want to help the town improve but need proper opportunities. Brady said he hopes to create a "Bennington Corps.," which would allow volunteers to help the town with its needs.
"They all are interested in helping. They want to do something to help this town," he said. "I had a few people from the hospital offer to do a beautification project with me."
Residents could benefit, too, from a group of volunteers committed to improving the town.
"I'd like to in the future see if I can get Home Depot, Greenberg's and others to donate out-of-date paint to paint houses and just make the place look better without spending any money," Brady said.
To address mounting infrastructure needs, Brady said the town should move forward with bonding to tackle projects more quickly.
"What I'd like to do is just get a few bids from a few different companies and get the best prices we can and bond for the $20 or $30 million dollars and get it out of the way," he said. "Bonding will add just a little bit to the tax rate because they're doing it piecemeal now."
Brady said his background and experiences will help him achieve those goals as a member of the Select Board.
"I know the legislative process. I ran an office here for (Sen.) Bernie Sanders for a little while. I've been involved in several, several campaigns over the years. I have a degree in business management. I've managed several businesses around here," he said.
Brady has been convicted three times for driving under the influence of alcohol, including a felony conviction in 2009. He said he was dealing with a period of loss in his family and dealt with it in an inappropriate way.
"I didn't function very well during it. I had a hard time with it all," Brady said. "I was medicating myself with alcohol and I went to extensive counseling."
The counseling has provided coping skills that have allowed him move on with his life, Brady said.
"If I had it to do over I'd have gone into counseling right away. I think it's made me a better person," he said. "I can't reverse time. I can't do it over, but I can grow from it, and I believe I have."
Contact Neal Goswami at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @nealgoswami.