Last Monday night at the regular Select Board meeting, the board recognized Rev. Jerrod Hugenot's seven years of service to the community. The pastor of the First Baptist Church became involved in a number of non-profit organizations serving his congregation and his community with distinction. He opened the doors of the church to the community including helping to create the free health clinic, a most important and notable addition to the community. He leaves Bennington a better place than he found it. We wish him the very best in his future endeavors.
The Pleasant Street Enhancement project was reviewed with the board to help select the preferred alternative, the planned improvements to School and Pleasant Streets adjacent to the downtown. By cooperatingwith the state, combining two successive grants, and carving out certain sidewalk work, the town will be able to extend the project all the way up Pleasant Street and around to Main Street at its easterly end. This is an excellent opportunity to improve an entire neighborhood.
At the board meeting, a resident addressed the board and made a comment to the effect that "Bennington has got to stop saying no to development." Overnight, and throughout the last several days, I have been trying to think of one development that the town has denied in my 20 years as town manager. I could not think of one. Even Walmart's now approved proposal was grand-fathered when the "big box" regulations were considered. The town formally approved the plan quite some time ago. The project had been held up in court appeals by others, not the town. If we are to present a positive image to those looking at Bennington, we need to be accurate in how we portray our governing and planning boards.
Recently, at a scheduled work session, the board approved the Water and Sewer Fund budgets. Rates will now be calculated and sent to the board for its review and approval prior to the end of June. The board continued its focus on improving the systems and facilities of both utilities while insuring that adequate reserves are created and maintained to fund unexpected repairs and failures.
Have you noticed the new Bennington in Bloom plantings in the downtown? Placement of urns and hanging baskets were altered this year, first for a desired impact, and second, to accommodate the catamounts now prowling throughout Bennington. Bennington in Bloom is sponsored by the Town of Bennington through tax dollar and individual and corporate donations. If you wish to contribute, please contact me.
Congratulations to the Bennington School District on the passage of its fiscal 2014 budget. I am sure it has been a difficult process for the board members and for those impacted by the cuts that were made.
I should note that the funding of this year's July 4th fireworks is in jeopardy. The town relies on donations to help present the show each Independence Day. This year a shortfall still exists. We are currently lacking approximately $2,000. With your help, once again, the fireworks should be special this year. If you wish to donate, please contact me.
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 for the Banner.