Manchester to get new food truck, return of village courthouse

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MANCHESTER — Springtime will bring new food offerings to town, as well as the return of the Northshire courthouse to the municipal government's hands.

The Manchester Select Board approved on Monday the request of a Dorset resident, Amy Chamberlain, to operate a food truck on the r.k. MILES hardware store lot along Depot Street.

Chamberlain, who gave town officials muffins and cookies after her vending license was granted, said she plans to offer breakfast and lunch Monday to Saturday. She will have a rotating daily menu that will include grinders, homemade ice cream and "ethnic food" such as Indian tacos and naan.

"I'm looking forward to serving hot, healthy, fresh, fast food," Chamberlain said. Her food truck doesn't have a name yet, but she is aiming to open for business in late spring.

The Monday night meeting was Todd Nebraska's first on the Select Board after winning a three-way write-in race last week. He is occupying a three-year seat vacated by Steven Nichols.

Town Manager John O'Keefe announced that Bennington County intends to soon turn over management of the Manchester Village Courthouse to the town.

The courthouse, built in 1822 on Main Street, had been involved in a legal tug-of-war between the town and the county that went all the way to the state Supreme Court in the early 1900s, said O'Keefe. The court apparently decided that the town building should revert to the municipal government once the county no longer uses it as a courthouse, which is now the case.

The handover by county judges should take place within the next couple of months, O'Keefe said.

"I'm not in a hurry because it's still heating season," he said.

Bennington County, which maintains another courthouse in the Southshire, is the only county in Vermont that has two courthouses, O'Keefe said.

In the meantime, he suggested that the Select Board form a committee to look into what the town should do with the historic building after considering zoning, neighborhood and historical concerns. The building's value has been assessed at $629,000.

The Board also gave the green light for the town to enter into a new contract with its existing solar energy provider. This would enable all municipal government operations to be completely reliant on solar energy.

The first contract, with Pig Pen Solar, provided half of the municipal government's solar energy needs. The remaining half would come from a sister company, MHG Solar, and will be implemented by this summer.

At the meeting, a firm that audits the town said that Manchester's books for the fiscal year ending in June were in order.

"It was a good report," Stephen Love, a certified public accountant, said during his presentation. He noted that the annual audit found no weaknesses, difficulties or significant errors in Manchester's financial statements.

Select Board Chairman Ivan Beattie said: "We hope people realize how hard we work to keep things transparent."

The details Love highlighted included the cost of town services for that year. The biggest chunk, amounting to $2.48 million, was spent on general government operations such as running the town hall offices. The next biggest expense, $1.44 million, went to public works, followed by $1.18 million for police and civil defense.

General fund revenues, meanwhile, largely came from property taxes ($3.22 million), followed by sales tax revenue ($1.18 million).

The monthslong search for a town assessor ended Monday with Gordon Black, an Arlington resident and licensed attorney, appointed to the position by a unanimous Select Board vote.

The Board is now looking for candidates to fill three town vacancies: one person each on the design advisory board, planning commission and water board.

The town hopes to fill the seats as soon as possible and encouraged people to apply.

Tiffany Tan can be reached at ttan@benningtonbanner.com, @tiffgtan at Twitter and 802-447-7567 ext. 122.

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