Council wants to know Bennington’s goals



Staff Writer

BENNINGTON -- The Council on Rural Development is planning to bring its Community Visit Program to Bennington to help residents identify and achieve goals for the town.

Executive Director Paul Costello said an initial steering committee is being put together behind the scenes and will meet in February to help determine a broad set of ideas residents may be interested in. Eventually, a town meeting-style event will be held in March, featuring 30 to 40 state and federal officials, where the public can share their goals and begin creating a road map to achieve them, Costello said.

"We provide the structure"

The program aims to provide local municipal leaders with the state and federal resources they need to help meet the needs of the community. Costello said the process takes about four months and includes several public meetings and events. Success depends on widespread community involvement, he said.

"We provide the structure, but we don’t make content decisions. We don’t know the issues as well as the local folks do," Costello said.

The public will eventually create volunteer task forces to work on specific goals. The groups will have access to state resources.

The Council on Rural Development conducted a similar planning process in Pownal several years ago and periodically offers the program to communities around the state.

Bennington officials said they are excited about the possible outcomes.

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"I asked for this to happen. It was available. It had been done in other towns," said Select Board Chairman Joseph L. Krawczyk Jr. "I’m looking forward to results."

Krawczyk said the program has worked in other towns to achieve long-standing goals. "It’s a different approach, and rather than the Select Board setting priorities Š this group is going to come down and see what the priorities are of the average citizen," he said.

Krawczyk said it is unclear what will come out of the initially meetings with the public. But, economic development is "still a hot issue," he said. Any people are typically concerned about recreational opportunities, he said.

"What’s great about it is they bring the heavy hitters down here from the state. They bring them down here at no cost to the town," he said.

New issues and goals are likely to arise, too.

"You never know. There may be some underlying issue out there that somebody has been afraid to bring up," Krawczyk said. "I don’t know what’s going to come out of it."

Bennington Planning Director and Zoning Administrator Monks said town officials have their own ideas, but will present them in the same manner as the public.

"I certainly have some priorities that I think are important that I’d like to see discussed," he said. "The whole idea of this is to get ideas from the public so I don’t want to prejudge what the priorities should be. It’s important that it come up from the community," he said.

Contact Neal P. Goswami at

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