Hardwick, News

Work Begins on Yellow Barn Project

by Gazette Staff

HARDWICK – At its June 1 regular meeting, the Hardwick Select Board discussed the library expansion project, the pedestrian bridge and park projects, and the start of work on the Yellow Barn business accelerator.

David Upson gave his town manager report. He reported that there is a new crosswalk crossing North Main Street by the library. This is a temporary crosswalk that will be in place for the duration of construction on the library extension. Upson asked residents to use the crosswalks and not walk along the fence at the construction site. Upson also noted that the area around the Depot and the Town House has been cleaned up as part of a first phase of work on the Lamoille Valley Rail Trail (LVRT) trail head development. He drew attention to a new parking area on Creamery Road, which can be used for LVRT access, as well as long-term parking for employees of downtown businesses. The parking area should be able to accommodate up to 40 cars.

Upson also reported that his office is working with the library and Hardwick Electric Department (HED) to coordinate the service upgrade to the library. He gave the board an update on the wastewater plant sludge removal project. The town is still looking for a solution for the disposal of sludge from Lagoon No. 1. Conversations are being held with the state regarding storing dewatered sludge for future disposal once sites closer to Hardwick become available. The distance and cost of using currently available sites has increased costs by $600,000, which is not in the budget. Upson said that the Yellow Barn closing was scheduled for the day of the select board meeting, and that equipment will be in place for jacking up the barn and preparing the accelerator site.

Finally, Upson provided an update on the pedestrian bridge and park projects. The bridge has $883,512 available between grants and the town’s fund balance commitment of $100,000. To date, $26,209 of the town money has been spent. The cost estimate from SE Group indicates a $250,000 shortfall in the current budget. Upson noted that SE Group built a sizeable contingency into the project and the estimate was made when material costs were at an all-time high, so the actual budget shortfall may be smaller. The current plan calls for construction to start in the spring of 2024. The park project design and engineering has been funded by a grant from the Vermont Outdoor Recreation Economic Collaborative (VOREC). Work on the project has used $33,000 of the $50,000 available from that grant so far. Additional funds will be needed for environmental work and the actual construction.

The road foreman report was given by Business Manager Casey Rowell, who noted that the new excavator has arrived. The road crew worked on beautifying the area near the Depot and Town House along the LVRT, as well as the parking area that David Upson mentioned in his report. The crew has started painting sidewalks and is continuing to haul winter sand. Road Foreman Tom Fadden attended a training for the Municipal Roads General Permit (MRGP) program and learned about some new tools that will streamline the process of updating road segments in the state’s reporting system. The MRGP is connected to the Grant-in-Aid program in which Hardwick participates annually. The grants fund updates to road segments that are not in compliance with the program.

Next, the board voted to approve the tobacco license renewal for Dragon’s Nest Gift Shop, and the cannabis cultivation license for Roots to Vitality Cannabis, LLC. The board also approved the water and sewer connection applications for property located at 95 Putnam Avenue.

Business Manager Casey Rowell presented the proposed expense budgets for the water and sewer funds for fiscal year 2024 [July 1, 2023 – June 30, 2024] Two options were presented for a capital plan for the sewer fund: one adds funds to the current allocations, while the other shifts money from categories that are being updated in the current project into sludge disposal for the future. The board voted to approve the water and sewer budgets as proposed, with Option 2 for the sewer capital plan.

Under select board reports, board member Elizabeth Dow reported that the Historical Society is officially open for the season. Board member Shari Cornish reported that NEKarts is about $61,000 short on their campaign for the egress and accessibility improvements to the Town House. They are still accepting donations and hope to be able to close the gap with a Vermont Community Development Program (VCDP) Accessibility Modification grant. She also mentioned that the Chamber Players are coming next month.

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