I’ve been told, and I agree, that the July 4 fireworks were great. Many people have commented on the show. Price Chopper, Casella Waste Management and Walmart deserve our thanks. An increase in the FY2015 fireworks budget helped reduce the number and amount of monetary donations needed. I would hope that next year we can match or exceed this year’s efforts. Atlas Pyrovision from Jaffrey, N.H., is responsible for the show.
At its last meeting, after a lengthy citizen discussion on the merits of the now well-known Shires Housing project, the Board took no action. In other business, the Select Board voted to accept BBC’s work plan and budget that includes the Downtown Improvement District tax. It is, once again, level funded at $69,948. The entire BBC budget is $142,909 for the coming fiscal year. The Board also voted to apply for the $3.0 million bond for the recently approved water tank project. That project will go out to bid soon with an anticipated start date of October 15, 2014. Due to the length of the meeting, the Board postponed discussion of the Kocher Drive pedestrian and streetscape improvements project. That will be placed on a future agenda.
Our construction season is underway. The Highway Department will be focusing its efforts on Bradford and Safford Streets soon. Notices have gone out to the residents of Safford Street already. Initially, we will be constructing new curb and sidewalk; curb on both sides; sidewalk on one side may be a consideration.
The Water Resources Division is moving forward with the last phase of the major water main replacement on Northside Drive. This phase will run from the Northside Diner north to the former LaFlamme’s Furniture site. Our engineer and key staff will be meeting with those affected on Wednesday, July 16.
At the next Select Board meeting, the Board will set the municipal tax rate. During the budget process last January, we projected a small rate increase in the range of 3.0 percent. That did not anticipate any growth in the grand list. The preliminary calculations show an increase in the combined municipal (General, Highway, and Fire) rate of $0.0245. That’s only a 2.5 percent increase.
The town has pretty much completed the mitigation work at the former Kocher Drive landfill site. What EPA thought to be a major, imminent threat to human health turned out to be a relatively minor mitigation project. The Town, working under approval from the State, is installing fencing and has completed mitigation efforts in six spots in the densely wooded slope. There has been no surface water or groundwater contamination found. Of course, long-term monitoring will continue. The town is still liable for a substantial payment to EPA for its work prior to releasing the site to State control. We continue our efforts to reduce that impact on our taxpayers.
The last FEMA appeal still awaits a determination. We are nearing the end of the review period and truly hope that our efforts, and those of the State, and our Congressional delegation, bear fruit. This process has been long and involved, highly technical, and sometimes frustrating.
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.