Select Board Works Through Full Agenda

by Gazette Staff

HARDWICK – The Hardwick Select Board worked through a full agenda of town business items in a meeting on July 21, that ran nearly two hours and fifteen minutes.

The town manager’s report was given by David Upson. He shared that Tracy Martin started as the town’s community development coordinator and she has hit the ground running. Upson also spoke about the analysis of the Davis gravel pit in support of its proposed sale to the town. The board agreed that Upson should continue to research the proposal, including having test holes dug. Upson mentioned that Hardwick could apply for a “Safe Streets and Roads for All” grant. Board member Danny Hale will work with Martin and the planning commission to evaluate if this is something for which the town should apply. 

Board member Shari Cornish asked for an update on the pedestrian bridge. Upson replied that he is working with SE Group (a planning and design company based in Burlington) and that they will be starting to work on the design in August, with two proposed designs expected by mid- to late October.

Upson also gave this week’s road foreman report. He noted that the crew has been working on the Church Street sidewalks, hauling winter sand, and have also been dealing with a few sewer issues. Regarding the wastewater project, Upson reported that Lagoon No. 2 is empty, and power is almost ready, so that the dewatering process can begin for sludge removal.

Board member Ceilidh Galloway-Kane asked about the bump-outs and utility access holes in town as they are quite a bit above the pavement grade. Upson explained that there is still a topcoat to be applied in mid- to late August, after which they will be more level with the pavement. Additional road paving is scheduled for the next couple of weeks. Gray’s Paving will be paving several streets in the village area, including Terrace Hill, Lower Cherry St., Elm St., Cottage St., Upper Cherry St., Dale St., and West Church Street.

The Hardwick Police Department (HPD) report was presented by Interim Police Chief Mike Henry. Henry reported that the police department recently upgraded its computer systems, most of which were at least 10 years old. Henry also shared that HPD started a new Facebook page, and is working on a web page, which will be linked to the town page once it is up.

All of HPD’s cruisers are marked now. Bike patrols have started again, as well as foot patrols in the village area. There has been a lot of positive feedback from residents about seeing officers around town.
Henry also reported that HPD has been executing a number of search warrants and also picked up a couple of stolen vehicles. A mandatory FBI audit that is conducted every three years was submitted recently, and some policy changes resulted from the audit. HPD now has a digital schedule for the officers, instead of just a paper copy at the station and an HPD officer recently graduated from the police academy. Henry also reported that a state highway safety office equipment grant of $6,672 was used to purchase a handheld radar gun, a solar radar sign, and a couple of other smaller items. Board vice chair Galloway-Kane asked for an update on staffing and budget at the next meeting.

The Hardwick Electric Department (HED) report was given by General Manager Mike Sullivan, who reported that Wolcott Hydro has generated over 2,000,000 kWh so far in 2022, which is 30% over budget. He also reported that the H-11 project is 12% over budget for production, which is very beneficial because this is HED’s most inexpensive source of power. Sullivan also shared that LiDar completed the satellite laser GIS (Geographic Information System) mapping of all HED’s poles. The NEK Communications Union District has all the GIS and mobile communications information now, so that design and work can move forward accurately.

HED scored very well in a recent Vermont Public Utility Commission service standards performance audit. HED scored well in all three factors that are considered: lost time accidents, outage frequency (54% better than required) and outage duration (31% better).

Sullivan YTD revenues are 3.3% over budget and expenses are 4% over. The HED commissioners just approved a pilot program through which ratepayers can get low-rate loans for efficiency upgrades to their homes and HED is looking into a partnership with Delorean Power on a battery installation program that can save customers significant money with no capital expenditure.

Galloway-Kane asked if rates are going to increase and Sullivan replied that there are factors that suggest that a rate increase will be needed, but no final decision has been made yet. He noted that HED has not had a rate increase since 2009.

Board member Shari Cornish asked for an update on the EV chargers. Sullivan said that HED is ready to proceed, but recent discussions have indicated that the feeder line to the charger in the corner of the Buffalo Mountain Coop parking lot will need to run under the road, causing a delay. Installing the charger at HED will have to wait while a retaining wall is replaced.

Remick mentioned that a joint commissioner/select board meeting should be scheduled soon. The last one was in February, so the next one should be in September or October. 

Town Clerk and Treasurer Tonia Chase presented the calculations for the ‘22-’23 municipal tax rate. Taxpayers will see a decrease in their municipal taxes. The board voted unanimously to approve the FY23 municipal tax rate of $1.3365.

The board also voted to amend the coin drop schedule to include the Hardwick Food Pantry, to approve the purchase of a 2022 Ford Police Interceptor for $34,434.35 plus fit up (FY23 car purchase), and to reappoint Roger Prevot and Michael Ambrosino as Hardwick Electric Commissioners for 2-year and 3-year terms, respectively.
Steven Mitchell III was appointed as a Hardwick police officer. He was with HPD for almost 10 years and left in early 2021. He is returning to be the sergeant.

Next, Jessica Bickford from Healthy Lamoille presented information about how to form a Cannabis Control Commission (CCC). Retail stores can open in October, but licenses have already started to be issued. If the town does not choose to form a commission, then the decision defaults to the state. The board voted unanimously to establish a cannabis control commission.

Jeudevine Library board chair Jodi Lew-Smith reported that the construction bid for the expansion project came in higher than expected, at $3,025,000. The library was hoping to get a bridge loan to be able to sign a contract with E.F. Wall. Lew-Smith said that the board expects the project to get about $500,000 in grants, so she wanted the board to consider providing a bridge loan “in anticipation of grants.” This could be done without voter approval if the term were less than one year. Several board members were inclined to put the decision to the voters and did not feel comfortable deciding among themselves. without consulting the voters. The group discussed the library’s ARPA application and the fact that it did not receive any funding at their recent July 13 special meeting, while most of the other applicants did receive some or all their requests. Board vice chair Galloway-Kane made a new motion to give $35,000 to the library expansion, seconded by Elizabeth Dow. The motion passed. 

Next, the board voted unanimously to reappoint Kate Brooke to the DRB for a three-year term.

Josh Oakley and Jesse Dimick from Kingdom Bent LLC presented their vision for developing the town-owned Carey Road property into housing. The board scheduled a discussion at its next meeting, so board members have time to review Kingdom Bent’s presentation before having a discussion.

The board also received a report on an East Hardwick walkability audit. The planning commission wants to come to a future meeting to discuss the report’s findings.