by Doug McClure
HARDWICK – At its August 18 meeting, the select board heard positive funding news about the pedestrian bridge project and took steps toward getting things underway. The board also re-allocated funds for the Downtown Commission to continue the necessary preparations for Hardwick to apply for a Downtown Designation. With another officer leaving Hardwick Police Department, Town Manager Jon Jewett asked the board for permission to start investigating contracting a part-time officer from another department.
Detective Kevin Lehoe will be departing, Jewett said, which was “shortening an already short staff.” Covering the overnight shift is now putting significant strain on its remaining officers. Jewett warned that “we could lose more officers, which I expect there’s a likelihood [of].” He said he spoke with the state’s attorneys’ office, and Hardwick was not unique in this position.
Jewett wanted to investigate which other departments could assist and how much it would cost. Chief Aaron Cochran previously said he did not think it would be less expensive than hiring more officers.
Small police departments are struggling to hire officers from a shrinking pool of potential applicants. Jewett said the most likely first contact would be the Lamoille County Sheriff’s Department. The board authorized him to do the research.
Jewett also had announcements about grants for the pedestrian bridge. He said the town’s application for $200,000 from the USDA for its Rural Business Development Grant was successful, which came on the heels of a $175,000 Community Facilities Grant, also through the USDA. The town has a match on the grants, and with these grants secured now has a solid start for what the funding picture looks like, chair Eric Remick said. Remick said that he was also looking at a VTrans Transportation Alternatives grant, which is focused on alternative transportation for Vermont towns.
The board approved funds to begin surveying and other preparatory work for the bridge site. Engineering Ventures of Burlington and LandWorks, LLC will begin working on a scope of services for architectural and engineering work. Stowe-based Little River Survey, LLC, will produce a survey of the site. The town’s regular surveying company does not do topographical surveying. Aside from obtaining topographical information, the survey will also help establish flood parameters. The total cost for the work to be done by the three firms is around $22,000, which the board approved.
The Downtown Commission is working to meet state requirements for Hardwick to receive a Downtown Designation, one of which is forming a non-profit corporation. Select board and commission member Shari Cornish is working on that step, but total legal costs are still unclear. Cornish estimated $5,000, but said it could be less. Vice chair Ceilidh Galloway-Kane said she wished the amount could be more specific. The board decided that with Community Development Coordinator Geoff Sewake working very few hours at present, allocating $2,500 from his funding would be a good course of action. Remick said he wanted to make sure the funds were not drained in case further grant-writing was needed.
Another potential grant opportunity Remick and others are working on is through the Vermont Outdoor Recreation Economic Collaborative (VOREC). VOREC grants are designed to promote the recreation economy. Remick said several opportunities existed in anticipation of the Lamoille Valley Rail Trail’s (LVRT) opening next year. He cited a rest stop in East Hardwick, a connection to the Hardwick Trails from the LVRT, and a potential connection to Hazen Union’s planned bike repair program.
The board appointed Bill Chidsey as its town energy coordinator. The town has done little to establish more than structural pieces for the role thus far, with Remick noting “we don’t have a slate of things for the energy coordinator to do.”
Chidsey described himself as “a practical person,” and a “hands-on leader that likes to be right in there and get things done.”
While stating he is “not against fossil fuels,” Chidsey said “I just don’t like to waste money, or energy, or precious resources. I knew there are energy committees where there is more of a climate change political direction, and I support that. But I tend to be more on the practical side.”