All About Town - Town Manager Stuart Hurd

Stuart A. Hurd, Town Manager

Work sessions on the General, Highway and Fire Fund budgets have begun. The first work session on
Saturday January 7 is completed. A second work session is scheduled for Saturday January 14 at the
Fire Facility at 8 am. The Fire and Police budgets will be reviewed as well as the Bennington Rescue
Squad request. If the Board concludes its work, the Annual Warning will be then approved at the
January 23rd Select Board meeting. If not, a third session will take place on Saturday January 21 at the
same time and place. As I stated last month in this column, inflation has been the driving force
affecting the budget. The proposed combined budgets are up 8.3%. The General Fund budget is
proposed at an increase of 7.1%, the Highway Fund at 11.93%, and the Fire Fund at 0.21%. The
General and Highway Fund are both heavily impacted by materials and construction costs. An example
is costs for paving in place have increased 70% over the cost two years ago. We’re now proposing to
pave 2.2 miles of roads for the same costs we used to spend to do 10 miles of road. Although the rate of
inflation has decreased over the last two months, prices have not dropped significantly. So how does
this affect the tax rates. As one might expect, when we use last year’s Grand List and known revenue
projections, the combined tax rate is projected at 8.29%. We have identified some reserves that may be
tapped to reduce the tax rate impact and some grant fund opportunities that, if approved, will also
reduce the tax rate impact. Any growth in the Grand List will also be helpful in this regard.

The Board is also considering a bond vote for two water system improvement projects. Both projects
will improve pressure in the system to better serve our customers and are mandated by the State. The
first is what we have called the south end project. It will bring improved water pressure to Jefferson
Heights, Crescent Boulevard and Margaret Lane. It’s a project we have been doing piecemeal over the
last several years at a cost of approximately $400,000 annually. The remaining project is estimated to
cost $4.0 million. The second project is the replacement of a section of water main in the easterly end
of Gage Street. It will improve pressure to the homes there and on Frank Street, Knapp Drive, and
Cross Street. It is estimated to cost $1.8 million. This is a 30 year bond at 2%. It will cost the rate payers
approximately $259,000 annually. This will reduce the annual project cost we’ve been spending by
$141,000 and allow us to complete these very necessary projects in a shorter timeline. I ask for your

The sewer line replacement project on Benmont Avenue and County Street is now focused on the
intersection of County and Depot Streets where a large vault must be installed to capture two sewer
mains and direct them into a 24 inch diameter main to carry flow down County to Benmont Avenue.
The contractor will also complete the removal of newly discovered lead water service lines. We now
estimate completion in another three weeks, weather permitting. Sidewalk and curb work along
County Street will begin in the Spring. Final paving will happen then as well.

The Benn Hi project due diligence continues. The Town will partner with Hale Resources, a local
housing development company. Hale Resources will likely purchase the building thereby becoming
the property owner to gain access to more grant funds and federal tax credits. The Town will enter into
a long-term lease or other long-term commitment to guarantee that the spaces we intend to renovate are
available to the community for generations. This partnership leaves the building and lands on the
Grand List as taxable real estate, also a benefit to the community.

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