The May meeting of the Bennington City Council was held this week by conference call. The minutes will be posted here, along with the full packet of detailed information for all agenda items. Here are a few highlights:
156th Street project: As you have probably seen, this project is off to a slow start. The plan is for major construction to begin at the Papio Creek Bridge and progress toward Highway 36 throughout the summer. The mayor proposed, and the Council approved, a plan to pay the city's share of the cost in monthly installments, using proceeds from the sale of bonds that we approved last month. To get updates directly from the contractor, K2 Construction, join this Facebook group. (It is not a public group; you can request to join and state that you are a resident of Bennington.) You can also check out this one-page project summary and timeline.
Purchase of new parkland: The purchase of the land south of Bennington Road at Johns-Bohn Park continues to be delayed as we wait for greater clarity on the city's budget. (The housing development to the south, Kempten Creek, continues to be delayed as well.) Back in February, the Council approved an agreement with DLR Group to facilitate a design process for the parkland. We discussed whether now is the right time to at least begin this process, which will involve youth sports groups and many other Bennington stakeholders. In this month's meeting, the mayor recommended continuing to wait with this process, and a majority of the Council agreed.
Regarding the city's finances, we expect a negative impact especially on sales tax revenue, but because of the lag in that revenue, we have not seen the numbers for March yet. My hope is that by the June Council meeting, we will have a better handle on both the revenue decline and the course of the pandemic itself. Positive, or at least better-than-expected, news could convince me to support moving forward with planning.
Pedestrian safety on N. Molley and Stark: I raised the issue of pedestrian safety on these two residential streets, the only two in Bennington, aside from a short stretch on N. 2nd, that don't have sidewalks. I have heard suggestions from a few neighbors, including stop signs at Molley and Howard Lane or a speed table. Of course there is the more expensive option of adding sidewalks to one or both sides of these streets as well. The city engineer said that it will take some time to gauge the impact of traffic from the new Prairie Hollow development. My fellow Council members and the mayor seem open to all options, but finding the money will be a challenge, as it always is.
If you live on N. Molley or Stark streets, I want to hear from you. You might even see me knocking on your door. I want to find a solution that most of the residents can support.
- The Council approved a permit for a resident to operate a drop shipping business out of his home that includes firearms. I was reassured to know that the city's police chief receives reports on all firearm sales conducted by such businesses in the Bennington area.
- The Council delayed consideration on a lengthy set of policies regarding the deployment of 5G devices in the city. We need more time to consider these regulations because they are complex. While this technology holds exciting possibilities, we don't want new antennas and other devices to be deployed haphazardly or in ways that interfere with existing infrastructure.
- The Bennington Chamber's car show June 6 will be a cruise-only event.
- The new ordinances regarding egress window wells in side yards and the towing of abandoned vehicles both received first-round approval.
As always, please contact me if you have any questions, concerns, or ideas about these topics or any other.