Letter: You cannot sweep this under the rug
This is the second time in 7 months Stu disregarded the environment and disrespected state law and state agencies. And it's probably going to cost us even more in fines and embarrassment. Last May, the Town was fined $15,000 for failing to maintain the sewer plant after a catastrophic breakdown led a wretched smell over much of North Bennington while human waste dumped into the river.
"Facilities that operate on the margins of disrepair run a much greater risk of dangerously releasing untreated wastewater into rivers we use for fishing, swimming, playing," DEC Commissioner Emily Boedecker said in announcing the $15,000 fine. "It is imperative that we hold communities responsible for ensuring their public wastewater infrastructure investments remain in good working order."
For Stu's latest debacle, the illegally built salt shed, Bennington taxpayers face another $42,500 in fines. That doesn't take into account the $340,000 state grant to build the shed that Bennington had to give back because of Stu's mismanagement. While finally admitting he broke the law, Stu blamed his decision on the DEC's long permitting process. Such a sad explanation by a career public servant named Vermont's Municipal Person of the Year in 2008.
"This type of management is foreign to us," Select Board Chair Tom Jacobs said Monday night after Stu admitted that he broke the law. "We recognize pretty high standards and we expect the management to meet and exceed those standards."
So do Bennington voters who are rightly infuriated that our 25-year town manager continues to harm Bennington's reputation and at the expense of taxpayers. Making matters worse, Stu is trying to throw his law-breaking predicament onto the laps of the Select Board.
Even without the fine, or the $340,000 grant, the fact that Stu knowingly began a project without a permit should be enough to force his resignation or terminate him. He admitted he knew what he was doing was wrong. Anyone else in any other profession would be fired.
This is what happens when Stu never has to worry about what the public thinks because he isn't elected. He only ever has to gamble on what 7 elected Select Board members think. The system allows for this and it silences the voice of voters and democracy.
To the Select Board: You cannot sweep this under the rug ... unless it's going to stay business as usual.
~ Joey Kulkin
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