by Doug McClure
HARDWICK – At its April 1 meeting, the select board discussed filling the position of town manager once Shaun Fielder leaves office.
The board was previously told by the Vermont League of Cities and Towns (VLCT) that the organization would have little ability to help in the short term.
The VLCT suggested appointing an interim town manager while the board conducts a search for a long-term hire. Chair Eric Remick said he reached out to former town manager Jon Jewett about bridging the interim role.
“He is interested in doing it, he thinks it would work out well for him,” Remick said of Jewett. Jewett suggested a 24-to-32-hour work week, Remick said. “I think that would be doable, it’s an interim position,” he said. He added Jewett would “just keep things rolling” while the board searches for a permanent town manager.
Remick said some town employees had contacted him to say the plan was “a good fit for them, as well.”
Board member Shari Cornish made a motion to hire Jewett for the position. She commented on “the ease of having Jon [Jewett] come in. He knows everybody, he knows a lot about how everything works.”
Vice Chair Ceilidh Galloway-Kane proposed setting a timeframe. Remick suggested it might be better to work out those details in a contract. Cornish suggested an overlap of Jewett’s interim term with the new hire, and Fielder said four hours of overlap were already planned for.
The board approved Jewett for the interim town manager position.
The board also heard updates from Fielder and roads foreman Tom Fadden about several grants. Speaking in his role as fire chief, Fadden said that the department has a new side-by-side four-wheel ATV with a skid unit. The unit is designed for fire and rescue situations on the Lamoille Valley Rail Trail (LVRT), with a 55-gallon water capacity and capability to transport injured persons off the trail.
The most recent announcement for grants included a VTrans small-scale grant for $41,000 and a $25,000 Northeastern Vermont Development Association (NVDA) grant-in-aid.
Fielder said that thanks to a “yeoman’s effort” by community development coordinator Geoff Sewake, the $200,000 USDA Rural Business Development Grant application for the pedestrian bridge had been submitted. “We are hoping to get notification by the end of May,” Fielder said.
He elaborated that the $41,000 grant is the 2021 VTrans Small-Scale Bicycle and Pedestrian Grant “to be used for replacement of paved sidewalks on Church Street and Maple Street to a concrete type.”
He also mentioned a $10,000 Vermont Outdoor Recreation Economy grant from the Vermont Community Foundation that will be used “for purchase of up to 10 bike racks to be placed at various locations in town and will also use funding for development of information kiosks for those coming off LVRT and or entering.”
Fadden said the $25,000 grant-in-aid from the NVDA came with a $5,000 match requirement. While plans have not been confirmed, the grant may be used to repair Bridgman Hill Road.
Hardwick also applied for one of ten grants through Congressman Peter Welch’s office. The funds would be used to support “construction contingency funding for the Yellow Barn Business Accelerator.” The town should learn the status of that grant sometime this month, he said. The ten grants that make it through the first round will be discussed by the House Appropriations Committee “for consideration as part of FY22 Appropriations.”