Bennington, Berkshire YMCA agreement to be assessed

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BENNINGTON — At its meeting Monday, the Select Board will consider an assessment of recent work and coming goals for the Bennington Recreation Center, after the board approved a one-year management agreement between the center and the Berkshire Family YMCA last November.

The assessment was completed by the Y, in conjunction with its staff. The Bennington Recreation Center and the Berkshire Family YMCA are spending this year exploring the possibility of a Y takeover of the rec center beginning in January 2020.

Stuart Hurd, town manager, described 2019 as a "transition year" in the agreement, which is effective Jan. 1 to Dec. 31, 2019.

"To see if they want to continue to work with us beyond this year, and see if we believe a partnership with them would have value," he said of the Y. "This [assessment] is part of getting to that answer."

The Select Board will not be asked to take any action on the assessment, Hurd said. "It's to report out what they see, and what they've been doing, and how things are going," he said.

Under the agreement, Jessie Rumlow, the associate director of the Y, took on the role of rec center interim director throughout 2019, as the two parties determine whether it is a viable plan for the YMCA to take over after the agreement period ends. The town is paying the Y $3,600 per month throughout the duration of the agreement for services, including the installation of Rumlow as interim director, the Banner previously reported.

An amendment to the agreement has also brought the senior center formally under the umbrella of the rec center, with the goal of increasing programs for seniors, Hurd said.

The agreement required this assessment within 120 days from Jan. 1, the effective date of the agreement."They're right on schedule," Hurd said.

"From everyone's perspective, it appears the relationship is working," Hurd said of the key takeaways from the assessment. "It's achieving things we all hoped it would."

The assessment summarizes efforts in the past 120 days in the Y's three areas of focus: youth development, healthy living and social responsibility.

A youth program, Kids Night Out, launched March 1, giving children ages 7 to 12 the opportunity to swim, eat pizza and participate in a STEAM [Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math] project. Swim lessons have also continued, expanded from three-week to six-week sessions.

The Y's healthy living goal focuses on adult rec center and senior center users. In the rec center, the weight room has been reorganized, and the health and wellness director is in the process of becoming group fitness certified, so she can teach fitness classes for all ages.

One of the "greatest accomplishments" for the Y and the rec center is that it is now "an active community agency," partnering with entities like RiseVT, Catamount Connections, United Counseling Service and the Southwest Vermont Supervisory Union, according to the assessment.

New senior programs will also be implemented, including a six-week workshop on Healthier Living with Chronic Disease, Friday yoga, and a three-week series on healthy relationships with food.

The report also identifies recent organizational changes, including staff training in blood-borne pathogens, slips, trips and falls, underwater blackout and child abuse prevention. In the aquatics department, changes focused on risk management, including requiring a guard on the pool deck during all operation times. The pool deck also has new equipment, including a lifeguard chair and a replaced backboard and chairlift.

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The assessment explores priorities for the Y over the next eight months, including possibly renaming the senior center, as many people don't know the facility offers programming for people as young as 50. The facility offers additional space for youth programming, adult fitness classes, and community events, and currently operates on an 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. schedule. The assessment also recommends increasing hours and offering more programming at that facility at 124 Pleasant St.

Another priority is to create a program that will increase revenue stream, possibly through licensing the senior center for school-age before and after-school programming.

The third priority involves strategizing the best way to expand the fitness center, as there are times in the day where members have to wait to access the three treadmills and two elliptical machines.

Long-term, the Y aims to create a functional strength training room in the basement of the rec center, launch fitness on demand, start an online presence to improve communication and marketing, and start an annual campaign to support scholarships in the Bennington area.

If the town and the Y choose to work together past Dec. 31, there's no set plan for how long any future agreement would last, Hurd said.

"There are continuing questions as to what happens in the future, should this relationship become more cast in stone," he said. "Those are questions that we'll answer as we move through the whole process."

Energy committee, letter of support

The board will also consider signing a letter to the Bennington legislative delegation expressing their support for S. 113, which would impose a ban on stores and food service establishments providing single-use plastic bags and expanded polystyrene food service products to customers.

"We believe this legislation will be much more effective than a haphazard town-by-town approach to this ban," the letter says. "In these troubling times where climate change is wreaking havoc on our weather systems and where dire predictions about the health of our planet are now the norm, we must take these small steps."

That bill passed the Vermont Senate unanimously on April 3; it has been referred to the Committee on Natural Resources, Fish and Wildlife.

"The point is to ensure it passes the House," Hurd said of the letter, which the board requested he draft.

The board also plans to discuss forming an energy committee, per the Bennington County Regional Commission.

"The board is going to discuss whether that's something they want to do," Hurd said.

An energy committee would address energy issues in the community, from things like renewable energy siting to updating the energy section of the town plan to exploring opportunities for energy efficiency, Hurd said.

The board will also consider liquor license renewal applications for Harvest Brewery, Miller's Toll and Safford Mills Inn & Cafe.

Patricia LeBoeuf can be reached at pleboeuf@benningtonbanner.com, at @BAN_pleboeuf on Twitter and 802-447-7567, ext. 118.


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