Board Approves New HPD Officer

by Doug McClure

HARDWICK – At the regular August 20 select board meeting, the board approved the hire of a new police officer and heard from Hardwick Police Department (HPD) Chief Aaron Cochran about additional officer training.

Chief Cochran and Town Manager Shaun Fielder updated the board about the August 26 Zoom meeting between a member of the Greensboro Select Board and residents of both towns. The purpose of the meeting is to forge better alliances and assure progress on both towns’ commitment to equity.

Fielder gave a brief update on the status of the now-closed swinging bridge. The board pondered Hardwick Electric Department (HED) Commissioner Nat Smith’s endorsement of appointing former Chair Lynne Gedanken back to the HED board to fill the slot recently vacated by outgoing commissioner David Mitchell. Fielder gave updates on two water projects and the Lamoille Valley Rail Trail (LVRT).

Chief Cochran said the department hired Donald Jenness to fill a position vacated when another officer left to attend to family matters overseas. He said Jenness is a veteran of the Air National Guard, previously worked as a transport officer, and “was looking to expand his work as a police officer.”

“The structure of our police department as a municipal department fits more into what he was looking for,” said Chief Cochran.

Jenness comes to HPD having already been certified, which Select Board Chair Eric Remick described as “a rare thing.” Officer Jenness started on August 19.

Chief Cochran said that, in coordination with Vermont State Police, some HPD officers will receive training on beanbag rounds, which are considered “less lethal” than bullets. He said beanbags had been used by the Vermont State Police Tactical Team for “years.” He added that HPD resolved its concerns about a pandemic-fueled ammunition shortage. Law enforcement officers are required to recertify annually, and an ammunition shortage would have caused delays.

Regarding the August 26 meeting with residents, Chief Cochran said, “We’ll probably be one of the first [departments] in the state to do something like this.” The meeting will take place via Zoom or phone from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. For security reasons, the meeting is protected with a passcode, and those wishing to attend can e-mail Chief Cochran at acochran@hardwickpolice.com to receive the code. Click here to get the Zoom meeting, and the meeting ID is 976 6079 1393. People wishing to join by phone instead can phone (646) 558-8656 with the same meeting ID. In both cases, the passcode must be supplied to join, and participants will be asked to identify themselves by name and town.

Fielder informed the select board that the swinging bridge suffered a broken support cable. Morrisville contractors Blow & Cote concurred with town officials that “at this time it would be best to keep [the bridge] closed” for safety reasons.

Board Vice Chair Elizabeth Dow said the bridge originally dated to 1912. Public works’ Tom Fadden said he believed a retrofitting had occurred 20-25 years ago and “there’s things that need to be improved.” Fielder said “It’s going to be a little bit of time” before the town can assess costs and provide a timeline for re-opening the bridge.

Board member Shari Cornish commented “Odd as [the bridge] is, it’s sort of a little attraction we have.” Fielder said for people parking by the Daniels Building, it would mean a four- to five- minute walk to circumvent the closed bridge.

Fadden said road crews were readying for winter and the crusher had arrived as expected, but the department discovered the useful lifespan of the gravel pit might be coming to an end. He said the pit might supply the town for another year or two and added that Hardwick pays considerably less using its own gravel pit.

Just a few weeks after the last appointments to HED’s Board of Commissioners, a new slot opened when Commissioner David Mitchell retired. To date, the only letter of interest received by the select board was from Lynne Gedanken. Gedanken also re-applied for open slots in early July, one of which was then hers, but the select board instead opted for two new prospects for HED.

Commissioner Nat Smith said of Gedanken, “I can’t imagine anybody more qualified or even closely as qualified.” Dow asked if appointing her to a role she vacated slightly more than a month ago would violate the HED bylaws. Smith replied that the HED board had no bylaws and no chair, and with no one wanting the role he “just convened” meetings without a formal title.

Dow described that as “irregular procedure” and was in disbelief that HED operated without organizing principles and bylaws. Board member Ceilidh Galloway-Kane wanted it on the record that the board thanked Mitchell for his work and “we’re sorry to see him go.”

Fielder said the wastewater sludge clean-out accomplished more than expected, in part due to favorable weather, including cleaning out some old piping and infrastructure. “It’s going to facilitate a much more efficient and effective process,” he said. Final work on the project should be done by October, he added.

With regard to the upcoming, much larger wastewater treatment facility project, Fielder said Aldrich + Elliott, PC of Essex Junction provided a preliminary report known as a “60% report” and hoped to present a “big picture” at the September 3 select board meeting. Fielder said A+E informed him that “if [the town] wants to do improvements, [we’re] going to have to get in the queue” and the project would likely involve a bond vote to proceed. He said the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation indicated “whatever those expenses are going to be [for completion], we’re getting a 40% grant.”

Fielder said “we’ve been able to see some progress continuing in the middle of the pandemic” on the Lamoille Valley Rail Trail. Barre-based Capitol Earthmoving, Inc. received an award for preconstruction on the Creamery section of Hardwick’s LVRT route. The two Hardwick bridges are completed, Fielder said.

The town is awaiting approval from VTrans to open bids for the section of the LVRT from Slapp Hill to Pumpkin Lane. Fielder said that, at this point, the Hardwick sections of the LVRT are “not perfect, but could be used.” Later, Remick added, “The rail trail’s looking pretty today, if people want to start exploring.”