by Cheryl Luther Michaels, Community Journalist
EAST HARDWICK – At the September 3 meeting of the East Hardwick Fire District No. 1 (EHFD), Eric Stephens joined the board as a new trustee and officers were elected for the 2023 – 2024 year. All officers agreed to continue their current roles: David O’Brien as chair, John Mandeville as treasurer and Gary Michaels as secretary. Randy Thompson will continue to oversee operations.
Financial reports and collections issues were reported monthly by Treasurer John Mandeville. Mandeville said that “collecting overdue water bills is a top priority. Working with our new bookkeeper we pursued several households with water bills in arrears, some for as much as 10 years.” Mandeville is addressing this by finding ways to assist those who can’t pay their water bills, such as the state Water Assistance Program, setting up payment plans and ultimately filing liens if payment is not made.
In September Mandeville reported that notices have been sent to three customers in arrears advising them that liens will be filed if payment is not received according to a previously agreed schedule. “If these liens are not successful, these properties will be entered into the Hardwick annual tax sale next September as will any new major delinquencies that occur before next July 1,” Mandeville stated.
The district currently takes chlorine residual tests daily and takes monthly samplings for bacteriological testing. Thompson reported in July that the June problems had been resolved and the July bacterial report was good. In August possible E.coli was recorded at the springs and the state was asked to assess the condition. In September Ken Lacasse, the Hardwick Village water operator, attended the EHFD’s meeting and reported visiting the springs with a state contractor. Lacasse noted that surface water intrusion was the cause of the total coliform reading, not E.coli. To address this, the spring was shocked. The chlorine residuals from the daily tests have been good, meeting the state required level of 2.0 during the quarter. Thompson reported that on September 15, he met with Manosh Water Services of Morristown to review plans to repair the springs.
Regarding repairs, two curb stops were replaced on Cedar Street and a repair on River Street was completed this quarter.
During the July flood, the hill on School Street collapsed exposing a water line that serves two homes. At first it was thought the homeowners would have to bear the cost of redirecting their service line and they were notified about the procedure to investigate FEMA support for this expense. When FEMA advised they would not pay homeowners for damage that was not on the homeowner’s property, it fell to the fire district to obtain the funding.
After a meeting with FEMA and the USDA, an onsite meeting with FEMA and phone calls with a consultant from the state, the fire district was determined to be eligible for public assistance funds from FEMA. The work has now been contracted out and is scheduled for October 28 to October 29. According to Michaels. “Even though there were a lot of steps involved, working with FEMA was smooth and uncomplicated.”
In other flood damage, a problem with blocks that were displaced below the bridge was identified and will need to be addressed before winter in order to prevent water lines from freezing. Town manager David Upon indicated this repair would be done along with other projects in East Hardwick. After the flood, a home on School Street was declared unstable. The home was moved and a new hook-up was connected. The fire district oversaw the work which was done by the plumber under contract to the district and paid for by D&L Market.
In September a special meeting was held with MSK Engineering to wrap-up the Lead/Copper Assessment Program. No changes were needed to meet the mandated federal requirements. The assessment was funded by a grant from the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation.
In September, Gary Michaels reported that the Asset Management Program, which will develop a map, inventory, and technical evaluation of the water system, has been funded by a grant administered by the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources. According to Michaels, the program was kicked-off on October 20, with a meeting attended by Michaels, Thompson and Douglas Casavant of the EHFD, Elizabeth Emmons of the Dufresne Group and Franco Rossi of CAI technologies. Additionally, a leak detection survey has been offered to the fire district by the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources. Once the map is completed, that project can begin.
David O’Brian will represent the fire district in the East Hardwick Better Connections Village Planning Process to begin this winter.
The board meets in the Fellowship Room of the First Congregational Church on the first Tuesday of each month at 7 p.m. Minutes of meetings are available on the district’s web page at ehfd.mystrikingly.com/. Rate-payers are welcome to attend.