by Gazette Staff
HARDWICK – At a March 23 special meeting of the Hardwick Select Board, the sole agenda item was for the board to authorize the town manager to execute a contract with Wright & Morrissey for the Yellow Barn construction project.
Board chair Eric Remick explained that the plan is to sign the contract with Wright & Morrissey and then issue a Notice to Proceed after new market tax credits for the project close. That closing is expected to happen by May 4. At that point, any contracts will need to be assigned to the Yellow Barn Business Accelerator Inc., which is a Qualified Active Low-Income Community Business (QALICB) entity that has been created as a subsidiary of Northeast Kingdom Development Corporation (NEKDC).
The QALICB was created to build the project and be responsible for it for seven years. After that, it will be leased to NEKDC by the Town of Hardwick.
A grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration (EDA) is a key part of the funding package for the Yellow Barn project. An April 6, 2020, press release by the U.S. Commerce Department stated that “the Department’s Economic Development Administration (EDA) is awarding a $3 million grant to the town of Hardwick, Vermont, to restore the historic Yellow Barn Accelerator facility and construct a new building for the local agricultural and forestry industries. The EDA grant will provide opportunities to leverage the emerging food tourism sector and will be matched with $4.8 million in state and local funds.”
The EDA grant has a 20-year performance period, meaning that the project must work to achieve its stated objectives in terms of job creation and other metrics. The groundbreaking for the project is expected in May.
Board member Shari Cornish asked if there would be display signs saying “Coming Soon” with project plans and information. Remick said that eventually there will likely be something that, including all the project funders, but maybe not on the date the project work starts.
Upon motion by Danny Hale, seconded by Elizabeth Dow, the board voted to authorize the town manager to execute a contract with Wright & Morrissey for the Yellow Barn construction project.
On a related topic, Town Manager David Upson brought up that the Hardwick Planning Commission (HPC) does not support the parking lot expansion for Lamoille Valley Ford (LVF). The town owns land near the wastewater plant and the Yellow Barn that LVF wants to purchase to expand parking and install an EV charging facility. Cornish is on the HPC and confirmed this. She said that the commission wants to see the Yellow Barn project completed or well under way before making any recommendations.