Where's Manchester?

MANCHESTER - Which way to Manchester?

Mototists and visitors equipped with GPS devices in their cars might figure it out, as well as anyone who knows that Manchester is south of Rutland and sits astride route 7. But for tourists who are driving without the right technology or knowledge, or even a road map, getting to Manchester from the Bennington bypass might involve a little guesswork.

It wasn't always so, but right now, a road sign pointing to Manchester isn't part of the array of signage that greets motorists as they travel the bypass.

The issue came up at last week's Select board meeting on sept. 18.

The town of Manchester was never told of the removal and is worried about potential tourists not being able to find their way here, said Town Manager John O'Keefe.

"Not that the state has to run anything by us, but we never received notification that Manchester was removed from the destination signs," he said. "The initial news is very disappointing."

Currently, the only destination present on most signs is Rutland.

Ron Lemaire, resident engineer with VTRANS, the state transportation department, said that a project is currently underway to install more signs with Manchester as a destination. This process has to be reviewed by the Vermont Traffic Safety Department first before the project can be approved. Although local officials expect that the project of installing the signs will get underway soon, there is not an exact start date.

Based on its importance to the state in terms of sales tax and other visitor-related revenue the town pours into state coffers, making it easy for visitors to find Manchester while driving here would be useful, O'Keefe said.

"If you look at the numbers, we are the 25th largest town in the state," he said. If you look at Manchester as an economic powerhouse the town jumps way up the list. Manchester's tourism taxes that we collect are almost the same as Rutland. If you are looking at Manchester as a destination versus Rutland we would argue that Manchester is a greater destination than Rutland. It seems appropriate that Manchester would share the headline on highway signs with Rutland."

Other town officials agreed.

"Given the destination nature of Manchester, given the significant tax revenue that the visitor base provides to the state of Vermont it would seem logical that we remain as a destination on a state highway sign," said Lee Krohn, the town's zoning administrator and planning director.

According to the state tax department, Manchester sent over $408 million to the state last fiscal year in sales and use, and meals and room taxes. Manchester collected a total of just under $1.46 million in local option sales, meals and room tax revenue for the 2011-2012 fiscal year. Meanwhile, Rutland, a much larger community, in comparison collected more than $948 million in taxes collected for the same time period.

Jeff Wilson, Manchester's state representative, along with other local officials have contacted the Vermont Agency of Transportation to raise concerns over this issue and were told that the situation will be taken care of promptly.


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