Bennington town office COVID-19 exposure not delaying budget and warrant

  • Bennington Town offices Staff photo by Abbe Hamilton

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 1/20/2021 4:58:09 PM

A COVID-19 exposure shut down the Bennington town administration offices this week but it is unlikely to delay the rollout of the town’s warrant and budget, Town Administrator Kristie LaPlante said on Tuesday.

The town was notified of a COVID-19 exposure on Saturday and conducted contact tracing among town employees, ultimately identifying three people who were exposed via close contact with the infected individual. Although the administrative staff are working remotely as a result, the Town Clerk and Police Department were not exposed and continue to work in person, LaPlante said. Although the exposure canceled the Tuesday Select Board meeting at which members were to sign the warrant, they are scheduled to do so this weekend at a properly posted meeting, and still in advance of the Jan. 25 posting deadline, she said.

Bennington has not finalized a decision about whether to hold its deliberative session in-person or virtually yet, LaPlante said, but the Select Board is scheduled to discuss it at some point this week. Hybrid deliberative sessions, where some people attend in person and others remote, is not an option under the emergency provisions of HB 1129 as they relate to SB2 towns, she said, and there are pros and cons of in-person and virtual options.

The rules governing virtual deliberative sessions don’t allow for residents to request and second amendments on the spot, LaPlante said. Instead, residents have a week to submit comments to the Select Board following a listen-only hearing, after which the Select Board would review comments and finalize the warrant at a second hearing. There’s also a question of whether all residents have adequate technology to attend virtually, she said. The Select Board could set an in-person deliberative session and later change it to a virtual session if they provided a mailed notice postmarked a certain number of days in advance, LaPlante said.

Bennington recently held its budget hearing in person. The town’s technology limitations currently preclude hybrid meetings, LaPlante said, and the town hasn’t received any requests for accommodations to attend an in-person meeting virtually since the pandemic started. “Obviously if someone asked, we would find a way to make it work,” she said, including purchasing the additional technology to integrate a person virtually. But, nobody’s asked so far, she said.

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

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