Downtown Improvements, Parking Configuration Discussed

by Doug McClure

HARDWICK – At the September 16 meeting, the Hardwick Select Board discussed several upcoming projects. The board also heard from a resident who said Hardwick Electric Department (HED) had taken action that could restrict access to their home, which HED fervently denied through both its lawyer and General Manager Mike Sullivan.

A resident who lives on Hardwick Electric Drive said that HED had told them the bridge which is the only access to their home is in need of repair. Hardwick Electric Drive is not an official town road, so the resident said HED told them they could no longer use the bridge due to it being a liability issue and planned to put up a fence to prevent access. The resident said the family had lived in the home for thirty-six years without incident, and rhetorically asked, “all of a sudden, it’s a liability issue?” They said HED. who uses the bridge itself for its own large trucks, told them their Ford F-150 was damaging the bridge. 

HED’s Barre City attorney Brooke Dingledine said she was having difficulty understanding what the resident was saying, and that this was “a matter that involves some legal issues.” Dingledine said the select board meeting was “really not appropriate” as a forum and was willing to sit down and work out a solution in a separate forum “so the town does not place itself in a position of having a road that it’s liable for but not a town road” under state statute. 

The resident said Sullivan had told them HED would begin charging them to use the bridge, and Sullivan vehemently denied that claim and objected.

He said, “Neither I nor Hardwick Electric are looking to harm anybody here. There are some legal issues that need to be addressed, it’s as simple as that. Going into a meeting with you guys screaming and yelling isn’t going to accomplish anything.”

Jewett said while he did not want to be in the middle of it and the topic was the select board’s purview, but he believed that preventing the residents’ access to their home was “bad policy.” Vice chair Ceilidh Galloway-Kane was concerned that negotiations would be taking place while construction of the fence seemed to be in process. 

The board took up a more detailed proposal for how to spend a $10,000 Vermont Community Fund grant for bike racks, signage, and kiosks. Jonathan Weber from Local Motion had been brought on for an opinion as that organization has specific expertise in signage and bike racks. 

Weber’s proposal was six hoop-style bike racks situated at the Memorial Building, the Library, both sides of the pedestrian bridge, the townhouse, and the Yellow Barn. The cost for the racks in total would work out to $4,424. They would be rail-mounted instead of set in concrete, so they would be movable. It was noted that that would be advantageous since the Yellow Barn is not completed yet. Board member Elizabeth Dow proposed changing the location of the Town House bike rack to closer to the Lamoille Valley Rail Trail. 

Signage would add another $2,295 to the funds expended. More than half of that would be the purchase price of poles. Galloway-Kane said she hoped that attention would be paid to the placement of signage along Upper and Lower Cherry, since in her experience, a lot of elementary students were riding bikes now and coming from those streets. 

Business Manager Casey Rowell had been researching kiosks in the “$3,000 – $3,500 range,” but had concerns about placement and maintenance. In addition, kiosks would need to be installed after the 2022 major repaving project going through the village. Rowell added that it would be next year in any event before ordering things made sense due to a seven-week lead time.

The 2022 paving project was a topic of specific focus. The state is coming through in 2022 and grinding down all the state highways in the village for a thorough repaving. One issue is that the current parking configuration in Hardwick is out of compliance with state law. The Hardwick Planning Commission sent the state feedback on some items. One of those is the state’s proposal to remove the two ADA-accessible spaces in front of the United Church of Hardwick. That would increase the parking available on South Main in that area, which would, according to chair Eric Remick, balance out the parking spaces lost by bringing the village parking configuration into compliance. 

Dow agreed with the planning commission that the two spaces were necessary to preserve. 

She said, “the engineering makes absolutely perfect sense, but it doesn’t take into account the human need for access to the church.”