BENNINGTON -- If all goes as planned, the town may be able to secure $63,000 to come up with a plan to market five or six downtown properties.
Planning Director Dan Monks and Bill Colvin of the Bennington County Regional Commission told the Select Board Monday that they plan to seek its approval to apply for a $20,000 municipal planning grant, which they can leverage to secure an additional $43,000 in funding from the Environmental Protection Agency.
Monks said the $2,000 local match required by the planning grant could be filled with the EPA funds, so there would be no cost to the town.
Colvin said they would be overlapping two types of grant program, one for creating an area-wide planning program for the downtown, the other looking at certain properties within the downtown to develop a marketing plan for.
The properties would be sites identified as, or suspected to be, Brownfields sites, meaning there may be some level of contamination there. Colvin said many places in Bennington are thought to have petroleum contamination, such as former gas stations or auto repair or sales shops.
This grant would fund a steering committee to identify these places, then create marketing and feasibility studies for them. Those documents could then be given to developers to show them what the opportunities and risks are. He said they could be given to the Bennington Industrial Corporation and the Better Bennington Corporation which work to entice developers to Bennington.
The work would also study the downtown area and determine what kinds of businesses is needed and what sort of economic activity could be brought here.
Monks said they were merely giving the board notice ahead of time and plan to formally ask its permission to file for the $20,000 at a later date. No vote was asked for.
Resident Mike Bethel expressed his skepticism of the grant, saying the town has been awarded planning grants in the past and not acted on them. He said the town already has this information and that its own employees can perform this work.
Board Chairman Greg Van Houten disagreed, saying plans have been acted on, and that such planning work is too time consuming for town employees to do in addition to their other duties.
In other business, Town Manager Stuart Hurd said the Colville Road Bridge project, budgeted for $503,000 may end up being much cheaper.
The two lowest bidders came in at around $389,000, which with engineering costs factored in will save the town about $100,000. This money can be put toward paving projects that were delayed for the bridge project or be used to brace against what may be a harsh winter.
In that respect, one of the sources the town relies on for road salt is up $45 per ton. That said, the two other suppliers are up only $10 per ton.
Hurd also updated the board on a lightning strike at the Bennington Waste Water Treatment Facility last Thursday.
The bolt hit near an administrative building, scaring the workers there but harming no one. Two transformers and two pumps were damaged, but replacements were on hand and there was no interruption of water or sewer service.
Bennington resident Loyal Westcott once again urged the board to adopt laws that would limit how close registered sex offenders could live to schools, and that would require landlords to do criminal background checks on tenants and prevent them from renting to drug dealers and the like. The board has said in the past that the Constitution limits its ability to pass such laws, but Westcott disagreed, saying he has contacted attorneys in New York who say it's possible.
The board agreed to consult with Bennington Police Chief and Public Safety Director Paul Doucette about the need for such laws.
Contact Keith Whitcomb Jr. at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @KWhitcombjr.