This article by Ed Damon originally appeared Jan. 10 in the Bennington Banner.
BENNINGTON — Last fall, when Bennington was informed it had received a $340,000 share of $6 million in state and federal grants distributed by the state Agency of Transportation, it did something that none of the other 17 towns awarded grants did: It turned the money down.
Joel Perrigo, project manager for the VTrans, told the Banner on Wednesday that the town turned down the grant in a telephone call, and later an email, explaining that construction had already begun. “Their project had advanced to a point that it was no longer eligible for the funds that had been awarded,” he said.
“It would have meant starting over”
Town Manager Stuart Hurd said on Wednesday that the federal grant was not originally included in the project’s construction cost. Hurd, who said earlier this week that he ordered construction to begin without a required wetland permit, said town officials applied for the grant in August. Construction activities began in June at the Bowen Road site destined for the town’s new public works facility and adjacent 6,400-square-foot salt and sand shed.
“It would have meant throwing out the completed design, bidding the design contract and starting over,” Hurd told the Banner on Wednesday. “That would have wasted a lot of time and thrown good money after bad. Furthermore, these federal projects move through a very cumbersome process. We were not aware of the tie to the federal rules when the application was filed. It would have saved bond funds, but was not essential to the project.”
On Monday, Town Manager Stuart Hurd revealed that he had ordered the construction of the salt shed to proceed before a required state environmental permit had been approved. The permit arrived last week, months after construction had begun. A state environmental official confirmed Tuesday that an investigation is ongoing.
Hurd said he was not openly disregarding the wetland rules. The town worked for eight months to resolve the wetland issues at the site, he said, noting that the town’s requests for an expedited process were ignored.
Read full story at the Bennington Banner.
(Fair use with written permission from the New England Newspapers Inc.)