Hardwick, News

Public Utility Commission Cuts Electric Department Rate Increase in Half

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by Gazette Staff

HARDWICK – At its June 15 meeting, the Hardwick Select Board discussed a budget shortfall for the wastewater project, the bathrooms at the Town House, and the state regulator’s reduction in Hardwick Electric Department’s requested rate increase.

Paul Fixx announced that he has recently become the co-chair of the Northeast Kingdom (NEK) Broadband board. He announced that the board is looking for an alternative. Those interested should send a letter of interest to the town manager’s office or call for more information at (802) 472-6120.

Town Manager David Upson reported that the East Hardwick trailhead was on the agenda at the last Lamoille Valley Rail Trail (LVRT) council meeting. He is working on securing a no-cost ground lease from the State of Vermont in cooperation with VTrans’ Rail Division. Once the lease is secured, work can begin on the trailhead.

Upson also reported that the town is facing an overage on the lagoon clean-out budget of $400,000 to $500,000. Aldrich + Elliot, a water resources engineering firm based in Essex, submitted an updated project budget to the state’s Water Investment Division for review in support of a request for financial assistance.

Upson noted that work will begin on repairing the broken plumbing in the public bathrooms at the Town House. The bathrooms will be available to visitors of the Town House and the Historical Society, as well as users of the LVRT as the site has been designated as one of two LVRT trailheads in Hardwick.

He also reported that Heather Carrington, the planning commission, and Tracy Martin, the town’s community development coordinator, have been working on a project for infill housing. The state will choose five pilot towns for this project. There is no cost to apply, and this process is very informative.

Upson also gave the road foreman report, and said that the new excavator has arrived, and the road crew has a full supply of winter sand. The crew has also been ditching Montgomery Road and working on some water and sewer issues.

The town did not receive any roadside mowing bids, so the town highway crew will begin working on clearing the roadsides soon. Select board member Danny Hale asked that someone look at South Main Street, as there is brush intruding on the sidewalks, which is becoming a safety concern.

Upson also reported that things are going well with the Hardwick Police Department (HPD). He said that there was great feedback about the patrol at graduation, and that HPD will continue to patrol the village and the rail trail with its E-bikes.

The Hardwick Electric Department (HED) commissioner Nat Smith reported that the electric car charging station will be installed next week at its office on West Church Street. He said that the state is requesting the installation of automatic meters, though HED is resisting that. Board member Elizabeth Dow asked why they are resisting that. Smith replied that HED did not expect the investment to yield savings.

Smith stated that HED has not increased its rates in 11 years. Recently, the department requested a 13% increase, which has been reflected in the last two monthly bills. However, the Vermont Public Utility Commission (PUC) denied the increase and proposed 6.5% instead, effective immediately. HED is looking into giving customers credit for the excess charges. HED General Manager Mike Sullivan joined the meeting and explained that the PUC would like HED to have some debt, borrow money, and spread the funds out between what is needed. Sullivan said that he disagrees and wants the department to be debt-free. He predicted that HED will apply for another rate increase with the PUC soon.

The board voted to appoint Amy Rosenthal to the Equity Committee, and read a statement in support of the Juneteenth federal holiday. The board also voted unanimously to approve the Local Emergency Management Plan.

The board discussed the logistics of the East Hardwick Fire District using the Town of Hardwick’s Unique Entity Identifier (UEI) to apply for an Assessment Management Grant (AMP). The select board has asked the town manager to gather more information before deciding.

After discussion, the board voted unanimously to approve contracts with Irving for heating oil and propane, and with Dead River for on-road diesel.

The town received two bids for replacing the fire station roof. The first company, F.K. Roofing, gave an estimate for an asphalt shingle replacement for a total of $27,800. The other company, Rodd Roofing, gave two estimates. One was for an asphalt shingle replacement for a total of $76,980, and the other was for a standing seam replacement for a total of $116,090. The board voted unanimously to approve the F.K. Roofing bid, pending the town manager’s review of references.

The Planning Commission recommended that Hardwick take advantage of a USDA agreement to allow the transfer of $175,512 from the Community Facilities grant for the completion of the Lamille Valley Rail Trail to the pedestrian bridge project, with the contingency that a portion of the funds to be used to create a loop between the LVRT and the pedestrian bridge. The loop would not be accessible until work on the pedestrian bridge is completed. The board voted unanimously to accept the recommendation, which will be implemented at the first opportunity.

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