Village Plans Discussed, Pedestrian Bridge Workshop July 17

by Doug McClure

HARDWICK – Several pending town projects were discussed at the June 3 Hardwick Select Board Meeting. 

Board member Shari Cornish reminded members that on July 17 a community workshop will be led by architect David Raphael of Middlebury-based LandWorks. The purpose of the workshop is to present Raphael’s scenarios for the pedestrian bridge project and solicit community feedback. The event will be held in the Daniels Building parking lot.  

Cornish sent an email earlier containing some details of the event. She described the workshop as intended “to envision and select a direction for the town to take in designing the new bridge and the ‘landings’ on either side of the bridge for the future.” Assisting Raphael will be Bob Neeld, P.E., a civil and structural engineer who is the principal of Burlington’s Engineering Ventures, who is involved in the bridge project.

Cornish said the event will be broken down into multiple ‘sessions’ and will include a break for food and drinks in the late afternoon.

At the select board meeting, Cornish said the event was intended to get community response to the proposals. “That will be our community engagement,” she said. She added she submitted a $2,675 funding request to the Golub Foundation, the charitable arm of the company that owns Price Chopper.

Another upcoming project is the state’s full repaving of Routes 14 and 15 through the village, anticipated for the fall of 2022. Select board chair Eric Remick said that he, Cornish, previous Town Manager Shaun Fielder, interim Town Manager Jon Jewett, and Roads Foreman Tom Fadden attended a “kickoff meeting for planning” with Vtrans.

The board previously heard that the major paving work will involve taking the pavement down to the base, which will afford opportunities to realize some of the board-approved Pedestrian and Traffic Safety Commission’s recommendations. Jonathon Weber of Local Motion was at the event and Remick said, “we had a conversation about sidewalks, parking spots, crosswalks, and bike lanes.” He said the town’s objectives might be simplified as a result of VTrans reworking everything. Compliance-related plans, such as removing parking spots that are dangerously close to the crosswalks and out of compliance might potentially be covered by the state, he said. 

The board also approved a slate of downtown commission members in advance of its bid for Downtown Designation. Remick said that the number of applicants exceeded what the commission could accommodate. “I was very impressed with the enthusiasm, we had ten strong applications,” he said.

The maximum size of the commission at this point is seven members, led by Cornish, and she said, “I’m thrilled that people are interested and excited.” She said applicants that could not be appointed were still welcome to contribute. The members are Katy Tandy of soon-to-open Birdsong Beer and Wine, Gary Michaels, Tobin Porter-Brown of Front Seat Coffee, Bethany Dunbar of the Center for an Agricultural Economy, Emily Hershberger of the Buffalo Mountain Co-Op, and Galaxy Bookshop co-owner Sandy Scott.

While most of the discussion at the meeting focused on the future, Jewett pointed out some current problems that might warrant an operational change. As deputy health officer, the town manager is required by statute to respond to tenant health and safety issues.

One example Jewitt cited has resulted in the intervention of the Vermont Department of Children and Families and fire marshals to make the unit safe. Another rental site has structural and vermin problems. 

Another situation that Jewett highlighted was the deterioration of the Robitille house, which is becoming unsafe since the former resident is in prison and the USDA is paying the property taxes and town bills. “It’s really bad,” he said. Yet another situation is a house in East Hardwick which is getting closer to tipping over backward due to an eroding bank. While the town sometimes can provide fill where it has excess, in this case Jewett said that would do nothing to ameliorate the situation.

Jewett suggested that due to the magnitude of these problems, the town might consider appointing someone to the health officer positions with more time to spend and more expertise.