Select Board Holds Second ARPA Spending Hearing

by Ray Small

HARDWICK – On May 5, the Hardwick Select Board held the second of two public hearings to gather public input on how the town should spend its allocation of American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds. 

The meeting started off the same way the first ARPA hearing (April 21) did, with board chair Eric Remick reviewing the list of projects the select board was wrestling with before the ARPA hearings. The list includes sewer plant upgrades, a new town highway garage, the Jeudevine Memorial Library expansion, the Yellow Barn accelerator project, replacement of the swinging bridge, community broadband expansion, and work on the roofs of the Memorial Building and the Town House. 

Remick noted that Hardwick’s ARPA allocation was approximately $855,000 and added that “with the projects that we currently have in various stages of planning and execution, we could spend that many times over.”

The first speaker of the evening was Mike Lance, who presented the results of several surveys of the priorities identified by residents of East Hardwick. 

The first topic Lance highlighted was road safety. He mentioned that speeding was an ongoing concern in East Hardwick and made a request for three moveable radar speed signs, noting that studies show that these signs reduce traffic speed by an average of eight miles per hour. Lance also provided photos and data to demonstrate the need for repairing and extending sidewalks in the village. The third safety issue was installing guardrails along selected stretches of road. Lance noted that in two spots the road dropped off 30 to 50 feet. He said that “if somebody runs off the road, one of the best things they can hope for is to run into a tree so they don’t go all the way down into the river.”

Lance then addressed the need for an updated engineering study to assess East Hardwick’s 120-year-old water system. He said that the last engineering study had been performed 20 years ago and that state regulations have changed since then. Lance noted that East Hardwick’s fire hydrants have “signs on them saying that they’re out of operation because we don’t meet the minimum standard of water mains going to a fire hydrant.”

Cheryl Michaels continued the discussion about the need for an updated engineering study, saying that all pipes in the system need to be upgrades to an eight-inch diameter. She noted that some of the pipes are eight inches in diameter, but those connect to pipes that are six inches in diameter and that those, in turn, connect to pipes four inches in diameter. Michaels noted that these constraints reduce the ability to expand the system and that the current pipes are subject to “multiple small leaks” that cannot be traced. She said that funds are available to help with water system improvements, but that applying for those funds requires a current engineering study. 

Next, Norma Wiesen, a member of the Hardwick Conservation Commission, spoke about the need for a natural resources inventory for the town. Wiesen noted that the town’s municipal plan states that such an inventory “should be conducted throughout Hardwick,” and that approximately 60 percent of Vermont towns already had such an inventory. She said that the inventory was a foundational document for assessing the effect of future development on the town’s natural resources, which could impact current and future generations of residents.

Annie Houston spoke next, in her role as a board member of NEKarts, which works in partnership with the Town of Hardwick as stewards of the Hardwick Town House. Houston outlined a list of improvements that the building needs as part of “bringing that space back to life.” The projects include repairs to the fire escape, providing access that is ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) compliant, painting, grading and drainage improvements, roof repairs and fixing interior water damage. Houston noted that the Town House is already on the select board’s list, but that the requirements make for a “big, big list. We’re doing everything that can. We’re falling short.”