BENNINGTON -- The Select Board agreed to try again on getting a bond passed for a water project that voters rejected on Town Meeting Day, but stopped short of calling an actual vote.
Town Manager Stuart Hurd said the board must agree to hold a vote before Sept. 30 if it wants to remain on a priority list for a state revolving loan program that would offer a lower interest rate than a bond bank.
The $3.3 million bond was rejected by voters 1,269 to 914. It would have funded the building of a pumping station and water tower on the lands of Southern Vermont College and hooking the school to the town's water system. SVC agreed to pay for a portion of the bond and by partnering with the college the project would be eligible for the low-interest loan.
The state has urged the college to go on municipal water while Bennington has been told it needs to begin improving water pressure issues by 2017.
"If we are to benefit by the low interest monies with the opportunity to provide a project that will allow Southern Vermont College to tie into our water system, we are required to do several things," said Hurd.
The first thing is to close out a loan for engineering work which the board tabled pending the bond vote. If the board does this and decided to try again for a bond vote it can remain on the 2014 loan priority list, otherwise the college has to move forward, said Hurd.
He and Town Clerk Tim Corcoran discussed when to hold a vote and it was Corcoran's recommendation that it be a stand-alone vote and not tied into the August primaries or the November mid-term elections in order to avoid causing confusion.
"The idea would be, we would have in place a decision by the board to vote by (Sept. 30, 2014) and that would maintain our position on the project priority list even if the vote occurs after that date," said Hurd.
He will come back to the board with a list of proposed dates for the vote that will allow for the legally required noticing period and two public hearings. He said the board's decision Monday only leaves the door open for a vote, it does not schedule one.
Hurd said he has spoken with Water Resources Superintendent Terry Morse and a new proposal may be able to cut the project cost by $300,000.
He said Morse is also working on a five-year budget projection, looking for ways to keep the water budget from climbing.
Board members agreed more public education efforts needed to be done before a vote takes place. Board Chairman Joseph Krawczyk said many thought the college was the sole beneficiary of the project. Board member John McFadden said he voted against the bond at the polls because he had many questions about it. It was agreed that a special hearing should take place with representatives from the college and state on hand to answer questions.
Contact Keith Whitcomb Jr. at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @KWhitcombjr.