Select Board Discusses Water Rates, Cannabis Commission

by Gazette Staff

HARDWICK – The Hardwick Select Board had a full agenda at its last regular meeting, addressing topics ranging from the wastewater treatment plant, to new water and sewer rates, as well as the Cannabis Control Commission.
The first presentation of the evening was, as usual, David Upson’s town manager’s report. Upson reported on progress in relining one of the lagoons at the wastewater plant, as well as the downtown paving project, line striping, and parking spaces. There was some brief discussion about the parking spots in the village; Upson said that he is trying to save as many as possible.
He also gave an update on the Davis gravel pit, where test holes were drilled recently. Hardwick is exploring the possibility of purchasing the gravel pit and the select board will be given an update on the initiative at a future meeting. A decision to purchase the pit would require approval via a vote at town meeting.
Upson said that a test email for the email alert system was sent on September 6. Any resident who signed up for alerts who did not receive the test email should notify the town manager’s office.
Next, the road foreman report was presented by Tom Fadden. Fadden reported that the road crew finished the upper side of the Church Street sidewalks and that they are now wider and ADA compliant.
The crew also cleared a good amount of brush with the two tractors that the town rented. They were able to do Ward Hill, Mountainview Road, Montgomery Road, parts of Center Road, Bunker Hill Road, some of West Hill and some in the village. A single tractor will be used for the week of October 10 to continue this work.
Fadden reported that the crew had one sewer issue on the west end of town, and they put the Glenside pump back together. Montgomery Road is torn up for repaving. The work is scheduled to be completed in October. Also, the wall by the Hardwick Inn was repaired by the company that was doing the stormwater project on North Main St. since they had an excavator large enough to do the job.

Interim Police Chief Mike Henry gave the Hardwick Police Department (HPD) report. Chief Henry wanted to make everyone aware that HPD does finger printing right here in Hardwick, so people don’t have to drive all the way to Montpelier.
Henry shared that HPD is working on integrating officers into the schools. For example, Officer Rossi had lunch with students at the elementary school, while Officer Barnard and Officer Force will do the same at the high school. The officers are getting to know students and to establish a regular presence at the school rather than only responding to an incident. 

Henry also talked about moving the battery-operated speed signs around more frequently. Special Investigation Unit (SIU) cases are being fielded through Hardwick Police, rather than Vermont State Police (VSP) as it used to be. Henry has been in communication with VSP and others about this because he currently does all the case work because HPD does not have a detective in the department. Upson and Henry will both continue to work on this issue because it is not feasible for Henry to conduct all of the investigations in addition to his responsibilities as the acting chief. 

The Hardwick Electric Department (HED) report was given by HED Commissioner Michael Ambrosino, who reported that the annual safety inspection at the Caspian Dam was completed, and no issues were found.
Ambrosino also reported that HED has started to feel the effects of the global energy crisis, as their purchased power is $96,000 over budget. This is because they are having to buy power from the spot market. HED is looking at other methods for getting and keeping power, specifically battery storage capacity for excess power. Board member Elizabeth Dow noted that she has seen a lot of solar panels going up in town and asked if that helps the HED at all. Ambrosino indicated that this power is more expensive for HED than buying it in the market, but noted that the H-11 solar project generated 1.6M KwH this year, which has saved HED about $125,000 by reducing the amount of power it needed to purchase on the open market.
Ambrosino reported that HED is slightly over budget in their revenue, which helps offset some of the increased costs. In addition to higher power costs, the prices of network components are up significantly, with some items up 200%, and they can take months to get.
Dow asked about the federal dollars for electric vehicle (EV) chargers and asked if HED has investigated this. Ambrosino
indicated that HED has a little federal funding, but that a lot of the money is going to private companies. It was mentioned that a joint meeting between HED commissioners and the select board is due for this fall. The town manager’s office will look at dates. 

Next, the board voted unanimously to appoint Upson as the town’s voting delegate for the annual meetings of Vermont League of Cities and Towns (VLCT), the Property and Casualty Intermunicipal Fund (PACIF), and LVCT Employment Resource and Benefits (VERB) Trust.
Kristine Burke and Jessie Upson provided an update on a community center project on behalf of the Hardwick Community Collaboration Council (HCCC). The community center would have a goal of connecting with community members, family, and organizations to facilitate finding their “feel good” place in the community. They envision using the senior center side of the police station as the site where this could all come together.
Burke discussed “survival mode,” how unhealthy this can be and how it can affect a person’s behavior. Burke said that people who are in survival mode cost the town dollars, morale, and a sense of community. People living in survival mode tend to utilize more police, rescue, and other public resources. She spoke about how the HCCC plans to assist in improving this situation with collaboration from human services agencies, the town, volunteers, and a limited number of staff. The select board voted unanimously to use $3,500 of American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds to help the HCCC purchase software they need to get started on this project.
The next agenda item had the Cannabis Control Commission (currently the select board) consider approving a cultivator’s license for Daniel Baumann. The State of Vermont has approved Baumann’s license, subject to local approval. A zoning permit has been completed. Members of the select board want to review a copy of the zoning permit before they decide whether to give the required local approval. This is the first request the board has reviewed, and board members want to have a clear understanding of the process and their role. Further discussion was tabled until the next meeting.
Stephen Fortmann spoke up to say that there are four people interested in being a member of the Cannabis Control Commission (CCC). Fortmann said that he is interested in serving, as are Kasey Potter, Jason Bahner, and the Hazen High School nurse. They would also like a representative from the HPD. Anyone who wants to be on the CCC should send a formal letter or email to the town manager to express their interest and then come to the next meeting for appointment.
Discussion then turned to the proposed FY23 water and sewer rates. The business manager presented the proposed water and sewer rates, saying that this year’s financial results will allow the town to lower the base rate by a small amount. For example, the residential base rate will decrease by $30 a year. Water expenses are budgeted at $303,988 and sewer expenses at $480,851. The board voted unanimously to approve the FY23 water and sewer rates, as presented.