Select Board Distributes ARPA Funds

by Elizabeth Dow, Community Journalist

HARDWICK – On Wednesday, July 13, the Hardwick Select Board awarded $307,000 from its allocation of money from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) to eight organizations that serve people in Hardwick. 

The Caledonia Grange #9 received $40,000 to make all floors of its meeting hall in East Hardwick accessible to people with handicaps. Civic Standard, a start-up cultural programming organization, received $35,000 in start-up costs. The conservation commission received $15,000 to conduct a survey of Hardwick’s natural resources. Craftsbury Community Care Center received $2,500 to support the renovation of its kitchen. The downtown commission received $10,000 toward a budget for its work after Hardwick village becomes a state-Designated Downtown. The Hardwick Food Pantry received $15,000 toward its operating expenses. NEKArts received $50,000 toward the external renovation of the Town House. NEK Broadband received $139,500 to provide high-speed broadband to the under-served rural area of the town.

Hardwick received a total of $855,000 from the $350 billion act that Congress passed in 2021 as part of its effort to keep the American economy and people afloat during the COVID-19 pandemic. At first the rules on what type of projects the select board could spend it on focused very narrowly on government initiatives. With that in mind, the board decided to put all the money toward an upgrade of the 1970s-era wastewater treatment plant (WWTP) that serves Hardwick village.

According to the July 3, 1978 issue the Hardwick Gazette, installation of the original system cost $3.9 million. Estimates for the renovation put the cost at about the same number. The board reasoned that the WWTP serves the entire town by serving most of its schools, churches, and non-agricultural businesses. 

The final regulations from the federal government, however, opened the money to non-profit organizations in the community.  The board voted to spend $500,000 on the WWTP, leaving $355,000 for other projects.

The select board held special public hearings on April 21 and May 5 for community organizations to present their ideas for the use of the money. Each group presented its project in its own way, and the board realized “we need parallel information, so we can evaluate them fairly,” said board member Shari Cornish. The board then created a paper application for organizations to complete. The board also adopted a set of criteria to use while evaluating the various requests. The criteria focused on the proportion of townspeople each project would serve and where in the town they live. 

A feature of the town’s communication and information management software allowed the board to create a form reflecting the application questions. Each member independently filled out the evaluation form for each of the 12 applications it received. Tracy Martin, the town’s new community development coordinator, aggregated the information from the form, and the board met on Wednesday, July 13, to make its decisions. 

ARPA regulation require that the select board spend the money by 2026, so the board decided to hold onto the $48,000 it did not allocate for future projects. 

The author of one of the applications withdrew it at the last minute, and three others received no funding. The East Hardwick Neighborhood Organization asked that the town repair its sidewalks and drainage system, and that it install guardrails and speed monitors in the village area. The board recognized the need the application emphasized, but said they belonged in the town’s regular budget. Town Manager David Upson said he would work with Tom Fadden, head of the public works department immediately to start planning the work. Similarly, an application to upgrade the town’s WiFi network will get its funding from the town’s Fund Balance, analogous to a family savings account. The Jeudevine Library also submitted a request, but the select board did not fund it.