Letter: Arrangement with Y is unfair to taxpayers

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To the Editor,

Our Town Charter has always required that the purchasing and bid policies used by a town manager be approved by a select board. The Bennington Charter Review Committee discovered in 2017 that no select board had ever approved the policies that have been used in Bennington for 37 years.(Town Manager Stuart Hurd forgot to mention this fact in his letter to the Banner last month).

In December 2017, the Charter Committee told the Select Board to get those policies created and approved. Committee Co-Chairs Sean-Marie Oller and Robert Plunkett can verify this.

It is outrageous that current board members Donald Campbell, Jim Carroll, Jeannie Jenkins, Jeanne Conner and Chad Gordon, along with Tom Jacobs and Carson Thurber, couldn't be bothered to do their job and get those policies created and approved in 2018. It was a town employee who suggested that is was time to update the policies at the end of 2018 or early 2019. How hypocritical is it that the group who felt they were above the laws of our Town Charter voted to spend an unbudgeted $66,000 for a study on the Bennington Police Department?

At the Select Board meeting on Monday Oct. 14, the details of the proposed contract with the Berkshire Family YMCA will be announced. The Bennington taxpayers will be told we have to pay $147,600 each year for three years to the YMCA for them to manage our Recreation Department. No nonprofit has any right to be running any taxpayer-funded departments in this town. That has always been and should remain the responsibility of our town employees. No honest elected official would try to push this through without a townwide vote. Big red flag — the Berkshire taxpayers haven't been forced to do this.

Bennington taxpayers are paying so the Y can hire a branch manager. What will that salary be? Tell the Y to pay for their own branch manager. It's not our responsibility to pay for programs and people in Bennington County, Massachusetts and New York. We are financially responsible for our town. Keep our tax dollars local.

The fundraising the Y does won't stay at the Rec center. It will split with many nonprofits throughout the region.

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A big reason the Y wants to come here is to make big money off after school programs. But the Y has refused to answer questions about fees and funding. I've been publicly asking those questions since April. People need to understand this will have an impact on our school budget driving up costs.

The new fees for non-resident memberships at the Rec center are through the roof. The local and state taxpayers will be subsidizing many memberships. But no one wants to talk about that.

The Select Board has had three years to provide us the details that they promised us about the Y takeover. The board has provided no answers, they've just strung us along. Local citizens especially taxpayers, have been kept in the dark. To drop this contract on us a week before the board votes? Transparent and ethical behavior from the select board? Not up to this point. That also applies to what United Counseling Services has been allowed to do at the Rec center.

Let's talk about how the rights of the Bennington taxpayers have been taken away. We're the group that has been saddled to pay every budget and bond for the last 65 years. We're the ones struggling to pay our taxes. We've watched as the nonprofits have become the most important groups in town.

Attend the meeting Monday night. Find out if we have 4 honest people on the Select Board who will start representing all citizens in this town again.

Nancy White,

Bennington

447-3025


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