The April meeting of the Bennington City Council was held Monday evening, with several attendees joining by conference call. The full minutes will be posted here. Below are a few highlights:
156th Street Project: Preliminary work for this project continues, with major construction slated to begin in late April. Monday night, the Council gave final approval for special highway bonds to finance construction. The local share of this project is anticipated to cost almost $1.5 million, out of a total project cost of $7.6 million. (State funds cover the balance.) Originally, the construction team, including the general contractor, the state Department of Roads, and the city engineer planned to have weekly public meetings about the construction progress, traffic controls, and other details. In place of those in-person meetings, we are now planning to regularly post updates on the city's website. I will let you know when those details are posted.
COVID-19 matters: The city has taken the following actions in response to the coronavirus pandemic:
- The city's playgrounds have been temporarily closed. Same with the volleyball courts. Trails and green spaces remain open.
- The Bennington Public Library and the community meeting rooms are closed to visitors; however, you can still access resources online and even check out books. Visit the website (benningtonlibrary.org) or call and speak to a librarian between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Monday through Thursday if you need help.
- Where feasible, city staff are working reduced hours or from home.
- The Bennington Police Department is responding to calls and e-mails as usual. The chief has secured personal protective equipment and sanitizer to protect officers. The Department has seen a rash of break-ins. Call or e-mail the department if you see suspicious activity.
- The mayor attends weekly phone conferences with Gov. Pete Ricketts and other municipal leaders to stay updated on the latest public health information.
In addition, Bennington Daze organizers have made the difficult decision to cancel most activities this year. They are working on creative ways to celebrate without bringing people physically together.
The Spring Garage Sales, organized by the Bennington Jaycees, have also been cancelled.
Development slowdown: The Council once again postponed a vote on the planned purchase of new parkland South of Bennington Road at Johns-Bohn Park. We agreed that we need a clearer view of the financial impact of the pandemic before spending a significant portion of the city's cash reserve. A major decline in sales tax revenue is anticipated. On the bright side, we budgeted very conservatively, so the revenue may end up in line with the budget anyway. We'll know more in mid-May, when March sales tax revenue is finalized, and a lot more in mid-June, when the full economic impact and the course of the pandemic itself become easier to gauge.
Meanwhile, the developer of the adjacent housing subdivision, Kempten Creek, also plans to delay the start of construction by one or two months. So we do not see any complications by delaying the purchase and the eventual start of the park project.
As always, please contact me if you have any questions, concerns, or ideas about the topics above.
If you haven't already, please consider checking in with your elderly or isolated neighbors to make sure they are OK. You might save them from harm or simply brighten their day.