hurd and cops

Town Manager Stuart Hurd 

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The new bivalent booster will be available at SVMC’s COVID Resource Center. According to its website, the Center is open Tuesdays and Thursdays from 8 a.m. until noon. Please consider getting the boost. And let’s continue to be careful and stay safe and healthy.

Over the last several meetings, the Select Board has heard from the organizations and individuals working on substance use disorder and the related issues it brings to our community. We are all painfully aware of the problems and working together to help one another. The news that we’re seeing the numbers of fatal overdoses declining is good. The news that we may, in the near future, have the Hub and Spoke model of treatment options available here is fantastic. The news that two recovery housing options are possible for Bennington is also great. At long last, the community will have real options to help people stop using and be able to find a way back to a healthy, productive life. The real solution to this crisis is treatment and education. If we eliminate the demand, we eliminate the suppliers. There is an urgency here and the efforts of many are beginning to bear fruit.

Lately, a number of people have tried to tie the UCS Headstart program and new structure at the rec center, the Bennington Community Center, to a proposed gymnasium and improved space there. While the Town did develop a proposal for such an addition there at the time UCS was developing its proposal, the estimated cost was in excess of $5 million, most likely even more in today’s dollars. Soon after, the Town was approached by the new owner of the former Benn Hi property. He offered the opportunity to redevelop the gym there and allow for use of space that was the former cafetorium for an expanded Meals Program and Senior Center. The Town began to explore this possibility and found it to be less costly than the expansion at the Community Center. The Select Board decided to move in that direction. There was never a commitment to the first proposal. Although it had great potential, its cost would be substantial, and likely prohibitive. The repurposing of the former Benn High, if possible, would cost much less. The decision by UCS to construct its Headstart facility at the Community Center was not tied to the gymnasium addition there. Now the Town and Hale Resources are in partnership to repurpose this historic Benn Hi structure and bring it back into productive use. Only 30 percent of the entire structure will be Town-owned and tax exempt. The remainder will be taxable and of much greater value than it is today.

The Town was recently invited to join a State sponsored equity initiative named IDEAL Vermont. It stands for Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, Action, And Leadership. To quote the invitation, “This initiative creates a coalition of Vermont municipalities dedicated to advancing racial and other forms of equity across the State through shared learning and tangible actions. Bennington has been invited for this opportunity because it has demonstrated a willingness to confront and overcome inequity, including racial/ethnic inequity…” The Safety and Equity Taskforce and the ultimate creation of the Community Policing Advisory Review Board were noted as important examples of our efforts.

The Town, through Facilities Director Paul Dansereau, has completed an audit of its Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Self Evaluation and Transition Plan, originally adopted in 1995. The new plan will be a continuation of this effort to ensure Bennington is a truly accessible community. The proposed plan will be reviewed by the Vermont Center for Independent Living (VCIL) before it comes to the Select Board for adoption.

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 Town Manager. He writes a monthly column on town issues.


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