HARDWICK – At its June 2 meeting, the Hardwick Select Board covered routine agenda items, but also authorized the signing of a contract for the design and engineering of the pedestrian footbridge, starting a project that has the attention of many Hardwick residents.
The meeting started with the town manager’s report, presented, as usual, by David Upson. Upson reported that the projects he is working on include the pedestrian bridge, a marketing
strategy for Hardwick and surrounding areas, and plans for the Gazette building. He noted that the current markings for parking spaces are only temporary and that the town will not lose all the parking spots that are currently not available. Upson also thanked several people and entities for their efforts in bringing back the Spring Festival.
Tom Fadden gave the road foreman report, saying that the road crew had graded Hardwick Farms Road a second time and put down chloride. They also graded Goddard Road, Bayley Hazen Road, the Hopkins Hill area and touched up Kate Brook Road. The crew also fixed a sewer problem on Elm Street and have finished ditching Houston Hill, which is ready for gravel. Weather permitting, they plan to start on the Church Street sidewalk project next week. Fadden mentioned that this time of year is a popular time for vacations, so a few members of the road crew will be out over the coming weeks.
Interim Police Chief Mike Henry reported that the Hardwick Police Department (HPD) has received the new Explorer and that it is fully outfitted, except the lettering, which is scheduled to be done on June 20. HPD is already using the new vehicle.
Henry reported that there were 237 reported police incidents in May, mostly just miscellaneous calls. The largest number are
motor vehicle complaints. Officers issued twenty-nine warnings and wrote twenty-one tickets. Chief Henry said that the officers are working on being more proactive. He also reported an uptick in bike thefts, mostly in the village area. HPD currently has a bike in its possession and invites anyone missing a bike to contact them to identify it. HPD also had several “leaving the scene of an accident” incidents but have made three arrests in those cases.
Finally, Henry shared that there continue to be issues with the Hardwick radio repeater on West Hill. He said that the problem is the link between Lamoille County Sheriff’s Department and HPD and that a solution is still a work in progress.
Next, Bob Edebohls, owner of the Jeudevine Falls, addressed the future of the property with the board. Edebohls shared a book with the board that features his property. He noted that the Flume Gorge in New Hampshire draws 160,000 tourists a year and said that Jeudevine Falls has more to see than that attraction. He shared some testimonials from people who visited his property and noted that most of his visitors live two or more hours away and that they patronize Hardwick businesses when they visit.
He shared that he is at a point in his life where he cannot continue to keep it open as it is and that he is concerned about
the future of the property if it gets sold. He needs help finishing the suspension bridge and a few other items so
that it can then be marketed appropriately. There are three waterfalls on the property. He invited the board for a
personal tour if they would like. Edebohls feels it is a tremendous asset for the town and wants to see it stay. He said that Rep. Peter Welch’s office has put in a request to make it a national park.
The meeting then moved to the business manager’s report. Casey Rowell presented draft budgets for the Fiscal Year 2023 water and sewer expenses and capital plans. Rates are set in September to generate the revenues to meet the expense budget. Rowell noted that the capital fund transfer was budgeted to increase by $38,000 next fiscal year. The increase was funded by a $40,000 bond payment which was deferred because bond payments are starting later than initially projected. In a projection of water and sewer rates, Rowell said that rates are expected to increase 3%, 4%, 8%, 4% and 3% over the next five years. The board approved the draft budget for next fiscal year.
The select board next voted to reappoint David Gross to the Hardwick Planning Commission for a three-year term. Board member Shari Cornish mentioned that there is a vacant seat on the planning commission and a vacant seat on the development review board. Board member Danny Hale suggested that the town recruit younger residents to serve on town planning commissions. “They’re the ones who should be involved in planning for the future.”
The board then voted to participate in the State FY2023
Grant-in-Aid program, which offers $29,000 grant for highway work, with $7,250 match (in-kind or cash).
The board also voted to increase the Wastewater Bond capacity by $75,000 to $2,275,000. This adjustment can be made without going back to town voters for approval.
The FY22 audit engagement letter with Sullivan, Powers & Co. was also approved.
William Morley was appointed as a Hardwick Police officer. Board vice chair Ceilidh Galloway-Kane asked for a staffing update. Interim chief Henry said that HPD is actively recruiting and would love to see some Level III applicants. Currently, the force has one officer in the police academy, two part-time Level III officers, three part-time Level II officers, and two full-time Level II officers. Henry would like to get to six full-time Level III officers, but said that that is going to take time. The part-time officers are helping to fill in the gaps in the schedule.
The pedestrian bridge was the next item on the agenda. The board voted to authorize the town manager to enter into an agreement with SE Group for the design and engineering of the bridge for $58,725 and to sign any subsequent contracts associated with the agreement.
Next, the board reviewed bids for FY23 paving and voted to have Gray’s Paving do the work.
Board chair Eric Remick wanted to recognize Richard Brochu for his many years of service to the town, saying he was very involved in the town and he will be greatly missed. The board also noted that Ed Keene passed away recently and served
in many capacities in Hardwick, especially in his role as water operator for the E. Hardwick water district. The consensus was that losing these valued community members is a tremendous loss to the community.
A video of the full meeting can be seen on Hardwick Community Television at hctv.us/category/hardwick-select-board/.