Yellow Barn Bid Comes in over Budget, Meetings Set to Discuss ARPA Funds

HARDWICK – The select board worked its way through a busy agenda, including appointments, the new police cruiser and Town House renovations. The board also revisited the topic of sludge removal from the lagoons at the wastewater treatment plant and scheduled public meetings to discuss how the town will spend American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds, some of which had been earmarked for the sludge removal.
Town Manager’s David Upson gave an update on his current projects, including the pedestrian bridge, a second
interview with a candidate for the Community Development Coordinator position, and the Neighbor-to-Neighbor planning meeting for the upcoming “Meet the New Town Manager” series in June.
Tom Fadden reported that the road crew worked on the Mackville area. They also completed work on Bunker Hill, West Hill, Marsh Rd., and Kate Brook Rd. Fadden also had a conversation
with a paving company about price fluctuations. Future contracts will contain language about having to pay for any price increases if costs go up between the signing of the contract and when the work is performed. It is likely that the town will only be able to do half of the scheduled paving, at a higher price than initially expected. Work will start on the Church Street sidewalk project soon, and hydrant flushing is scheduled to conclude by April 22.

Interim Chief Mike Henry reported that the Hardwick Police Department is working to support the high school with various issues, such as students not attending class and vaping in the bathroom. HPD is working with the school to establish a program to keep students out of trouble. The Senior Center side of the Public Safety building has been opened for various school groups. Town Manager Upson added that some students could use mentors and volunteers are needed.
The agenda then turned to appointments. The select board voted to appoint Rose Friedman to the Hazen Union Board for the one-year remaining on a three-year term, and appointed Lanna Lawson, Emily Hale, and Samantha Collins to the Hardwick Recreation Committee.
The number of licensed dogs has steadily been decreasing.
Town Clerk Tonia Chase plans to send out reminder letters to approximately 200 residents who have registered dogs in 2019, but have not registered dogs since.
The Business Manager gave an update through 03-31-2022 of revenue and expenses. Revenues were expected to be at 75% of the full-year budgeted amount at this point in the fiscal year. However, the current report shows revenues at 162.79% of budget because school funds have not yet been paid. Expenses are running below budget, with 65.95% of the full-year total spent vs. an expected spending rate of 75%.
In a follow-up to an earlier discussion, the board voted to cancel the Dodge Charger and purchase a Ford Explorer Interceptor instead.
Board vice chair Ceilidh Galloway-Kane reported about the Declaration of Inclusion, an initiative that the state would like all towns adopt as their own. Hardwick adopted an Equity Resolution for All in 2020. The select board voted to be added to the
list of towns in the State of Vermont with a Declaration of Inclusion. Galloway-Kane also mentioned that Inclusion Week is May 9. The Equity committee is going to be hiring a third party
to provide a training sometime in May.

At the March 17 meeting, the board voted to move
forward with the entire sludge removal project at the wastewater treatment facility, using about $500,000 of ARPA funds, some town capital funds, and a loan amount of about $1.9M, coupled with state subsidies. However, after that meeting, it
was discovered that the $1.2M in the project for sludge removal did not include trucking and disposal costs, which the town will need to pay separately. As a result, the project will require the full $2.2 million bond that was approved, resulting in a bond payment of about $134,000 and an increase of about $60/quarter/user. The board will move forward with soliciting bids to determine the actual project cost.
The group discussed that this project really needs to move forward. The best thing for us to do is to put it out to
bid to see what the actual estimate comes in at because with all the rising costs, these numbers may not
represent the actual cost. The plant really needs these upgrades and the work on the lagoons, so we need to take
the next step of getting bids and seeing what it will truly cost.
The board then voted to appoint Andrew Force as a
Hardwick Police Officer. Interim Chief Henry said that Force is currently at the police academy.
Since the board is considering using $500,000 of ARPA funds for the wastewater project, there was discussion about showing residents the value of the wastewater plant to the whole town and that it is not a benefit just to the rate payers.
Galloway-Kane noted that the proposal does not use all the ARPA funds for the project, and said that it is important for the board explain why it is necessary to spend a large portion of the ARPA funds on the wastewater project. 

There will be two community discussions on ARPA funds, one on April 21 at 5:30 p.m. and another on May 5 at 5:30 p.m. Participation can be in-person or via Zoom. Details are available in the “Hardwick Community Discussion on ARPA Funds” section of the town website (hardwickvt.gov/).
Board chair Eric Remick shared that only one bid for the Yellow Barn project came in. The bid came in way over the budget. The budget was $10 million, with a $2 million contingency and the bid came in at $19 million. The planning team is working on various ideas to make it work and move forward. More funding may be needed.
Business Manager Casey Rowell announced that the town website is now hardwickvt.gov. The .org will still work since it will
automatically reroute for now.