Town meeting is over. Congratulations to Justin Corcoran and Michael Keane on their election to the select board. The board will reorganize at its first meeting in April. I extend a special thanks to Joe Krawczyk Jr. for his service over the past 12 years. I want to thank the voters for their support of the town’s budget. The strength of the positive vote (2 to 1) is an indication that we have your strong support.
I am disappointed in the defeat of the water system improvement bond. Terry Morse and I recently met with our engineer to begin looking at alternatives. We are in conversation with the state, seeking an extension in current year’s funding opportunities to see if we can get back before the voters in a manner that still provides the low interest rate on borrowed funds. A partnership with the college remains on the table as SVC also seeks an alternate solution to its water system problems. All agency-funding articles passed adding $84,650 to the budget.
I would like to extend my thanks as well to the select board candidates who were not successful: Mike Bethel, Peter Brady, Frank Dawson and Rachael Fields. The campaign was generally about issues the town is facing and not very negative.
It should be noted that both BSD and MAU budgets failed once again in Bennington. The remaining members of the MAU District carried its budget to victory. The BSD Board has already begun the process of review to find opportunities that might make the budget more palatable. This will not be an easy task. The BSD budget has increased only 1.5 percent over last year. The largest increases in the education tax rate are the responsibility of the state legislature. These rates are not yet finalized.
The talk of the town right now is the New York Times article that painted Bennington in a negative light. The select board has asked that I draft a letter to the Times for board approval that highlights the positive aspects of Bennington’s efforts in the recognition of and response to the opiate problem facing Vermont and New England. We are not alone.
We now look warmly towards spring. The downtown planting contract has been approved by the Bennington in Bloom committee. Fundraising has begun to help the committee meet its goal for those amazing plantings that should be on the street around Memorial Day. This winter has been particularly difficult thanks in part to the somewhat milder winters of the last two years. Our winter salt and sand budgets are nearly exhausted. So, I ask all of you, in your spare time, to think spring. It’s time.
The Hunt Street (Benmont Avenue) Bridge project is now scheduled to move to bid this year. A two-year construction schedule is contemplated. One-way traffic in the northerly direction will be accommodated during construction. The project is principally a deck replacement project using a pre-cast deck structure, keeping the current two-lane concept with sidewalk on one side. The plan to have traffic moving in the northerly direction only with detours in place to reroute southbound traffic is predicated on the determination that traffic would back up into Northside Drive if two directional movements were maintained. This is the most cost effective and efficient solution, saving both the state and the town money. The estimated construction cost is $3.4 million. The town has its 5 percent ($170,000) local share set aside.
Remember, if anyone has any questions or suggestions arising from this column or on any town matters, please contact me at 802-442-1037 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.