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Board Discusses Rail Trail Maintenance, EV Chargers

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by Gazette Staff

HARDWICK – At its January 19 regular meeting, the Hardwick Select Board discussed town issues ranging from the status of the Downtown Designation application to the upkeep of the Rail Trail and progress installing electric vehicle (EV) chargers in town.

Town Manager David Upson reported that the Downtown Designation application is complete and that representatives from town and the Downtown Partnership would attend a meeting with their state counterparts in Montpelier. Two new high-efficiency hybrid hot water heaters were installed in the Public Safety Building and in the Memorial Building. The heaters were partially paid for by a grant from Hardwick Electric Department (HED), in partnership with Efficiency Vermont. Work has begun on a nitrogen generator system for the Memorial Building sprinkler system.

Upson also reported that, though the board authorized the town manager to purchase network hardware costing up to $14,000, the final estimate came in at just under $15,000. The board voted to increase the approved amount to $15,000.
Board member Danny Hale asked if there has been any discussion about maintenance of Lamoille Valley Rail Trail (LVRT). Upson said that the Vermont Association of Snow Travelers (VAST) takes care of things in the winter, but that the LVRT plan indicates that it will not be the town’s responsibility to take care of the trail.

The Hardwick Police Department (HPD) report was presented by interim Police Chief Mike Henry. Henry indicated that the HPD has been receiving complaints about parking in handicapped spots. The state fine for this offense is $306, while the town fine is significantly less, at just $25. Henry recommended that the town increase its fine to $50.

The Hardwick Electric Department (HED) report was given by General Manager Mike Sullivan. Sullivan said that the HED rate increase was expected to be implemented soon. Hale commented that he has seen that several other utilities are also seeking rate increases. Sullivan reported on HED’s response to the storm of December 23, which caused outages for 2,200 people. The crew worked until 1:30 that Saturday morning and by the end of the day there were only 58 outages remaining. Power was restored to the final homes on Monday; the last houses to be re-connected were seasonal vacation homes.
Sullivan noted that HED faces a requirement to generate 75% of its power from renewable portfolio by 2032. HED is currently at 63%, so it has 10 years to add the remaining 12%.
On the financial side, Sullivan reported that revenues are 2.5% under budget while expenses are 5.2% over budget, underlining the need for a rate increase.

Board Vice Chair Ceilidh Galloway-Kane asked for an update on EV chargers. Sullivan reported that HED’s charger is prepped and ready to go, but it must wait until their retaining wall is replaced. HED will charge a break-even fee but must get approval because a fee (tariff) will be charged.

Rick Welcome and Bill Richardson with Lamoille Valley Ford attended the meeting to discuss the dealerships desire to acquire 0.4 acres partially owned by the town to create a parking lot with EV chargers. Ford is requiring its dealers to add additional chargers. The board agreed to explore the issue further and instructed the town manager to analyze the details.

The board voted to appoint Lucy Zendzian to the Hardwick Conservation Commission for the remainder of a three-year term expiring May 31, 2025, voted to approve the warning for the purchase of the gravel pit, and unanimously voted to have the current vendor perform the reappraisal. The current vendor was the only company to reply to the town’s request for proposal.

Next, the board considered approving the final draft of the FY24 budget. The business manager presented a budget that calls for a 4.80% increase, for a total budget of $3,736,029.

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