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Library Expansion Facing Groundwater Challenge

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photo by Vanessa Fournier
As part of the planned construction on the Yellow Barn in Hardwick, general contractor Wright & Morrissey, Inc., of South Burlington, have jacked up the building for a new foundation. The Yellow Barn is owned by the Town of Hardwick and is currently leased to the Northeast Kingdom Development Corporation.

by Gazette Staff

HARDWICK – During its August 3 regular meeting, the Hardwick Select Board discussed the various efforts that are underway to repair flood damage and heard an update on construction complications with the library expansion project.

The first item for discussion was a notice from a meeting attendee. Bill Chidsey reported that the bridge behind his house on the Lamoille Valley Rail Trail was damaged due to the flood and is very unstable. He has talked to FEMA, and a geological surveyor has been out to look at the bridge. It is currently closed; however, Chidsey said that he has seen members of the public try to use the bridge, which is a public safety concern. Town Manager David Upson agreed to talk to rail trail representatives to see what more could be done to protect the public.

Upson reported that he has been working on gathering flood information and trying to solve the concerns that have been raised. One issue is the landslide that occurred on School Street in East Hardwick. A geotechnical engineer visited the location and is currently working to put a report together. Repairs are likely to be very costly, so the town might have to change the direction of the road or find another right of way. Board member Danny Hale mentioned that there are properties and buildings that could be removed in order to relocate the road. This will be a topic for further discussion once the report is completed.

Upson also reported that there are six properties that FEMA has bought out which now belong to the town. This is due to the significant damage that the properties sustained. Those six properties will no longer be on the grand list. Upson is working with residents and FEMA on options to take care of the debris. Currently, there are local organizations that are donating money and time to help residents out. One partnership that the town has had is with the Civic Standard. Members of the board expressed their gratitude to the Civic Standard for its assistance.

At the July 19 special select board meeting, Michael Demers mentioned that the road that his business is on was destroyed due to the flood. He asked for some assistance. Upson reported that the town hired a contractor to fix the road, and the work is now complete.

Upson mentioned that the resident that owns land adjacent to the West Hill Cemetery is trying to put the land into a conservation trust and needs to quit claim some of the property, mostly the cemetery, to the Town of Hardwick. Board member Elizabeth Dow is working on this issue.

Board chair Eric Remick asked for clarification on the FEMA portal and how FEMA defines a project. Upson mentioned that if there are issues that are near each other and can be fixed together, then it will be categorized as a single project. However, if, for example, an issue is on Mackville Road and another issue is on Hardwick Farms Road, then those two areas cannot be categorized together due to the distance, even though they may or may not be fixed the same day.

Road Foreman Tom Fadden reported that the road crew managed to get Tucker Brook Road opened. The crew is still working on ditches and culverts on that road, but it is passable.

Fishers Folley Bridge will be getting a temporary bridge, but it is to be determined if the town will do the work, or if it will be contracted out. Fadden also reported that the road crew has hauled about 7,500 yards of gravel, 600 yards of stone, and has brought in 230 culverts. The plan is to continue to work on roads that still have flood damage, and then grade the roads.

Board member Dow asked about Carey Road. Fadden stated that Carey Road will likely be closed for the remainder of the year because the box culvert is undermined. The state is going to look at it soon and determine options on how the town should proceed, but for now the road is closed. Board member Ceilidh Galloway-Kane stated that there are visibility issues on Hardwick Farms Road. Fadden and Upson said that they will look into this. Additionally, Fadden reported that the paved roads that sustained damage now have dirt patches and will be paved soon.

The board expressed its appreciation for the work done by the road crew.

The Hardwick Police Department (HPD) report was given by Town Manager David Upson. He reported that the HPD has been busy fielding calls. He also reported that there have been complaints about speeding. One affected area is East Church Street in East Hardwick. Upson wanted to remind drivers that East Church Street is a 25-mph zone.

The police cruiser that was damaged during the flood has been repaired and will be back at the station within the next few days.

Next, representatives from the Jeudevine Library gave an update on the expansion project. Jodi Lew-Smith reported that the library hired ReArch as its contractor in April, and they began construction at the beginning of May. However, after the project began, the contractors started to hit ground water. They used several sump pumps to try and help the situation. Unfortunately, the water did not subside, and the soil is very soft. Construction was stopped, and the library has to decide how to proceed. One option is to redesign the building. Other options that the library investigated would cost an additional $100,000 to $150,000, which is not feasible. After reviewing several options, the library board decided to redesign the building and raise the lower level. This is the most cost-effective option. However, the board is still investigating the best way to raise the foundation, and what to do about an elevator. The next step is to get price estimates and proceed with a change order. The hope is that the contractor will start again in the next couple of weeks. Additionally, Lew-Smith reported that the stained-glass windows are being repaired. Town Manager Upson mentioned that the Neighbor-to-Neighbor organization has a hotline that rings into the library and that the library staff has done a great job fielding all the calls.

Next, the board voted to adopt the Vermont Community Development Program (VCDP) Municipal Policies and Codes for the Library Accessibility grant. The board also voted to approve purchasing a new truck to replace the Dodge Ram that was destroyed in the flood at a cost not to exceed $40,500, and voted to write a letter of support for the NEKarts application for an additional grant for the Town House Egress and Accessibility Project.

The board also voted to approve a thank you resolution regarding the July 2023 flood [the full text of the resolution can be seen in last week’s edition of The Gazette].

Board member Shari Cornish reported that the Lamoille Valley Rail Trail (LVRT) regional amenities scoping study meeting was held at the Town House on August 2. There was a good turn-out, and the new designs are on the NVDA’s website (nvda.net/lvrt.php). There was discussion that the rail trail from St. Johnsbury to Danville should be opening back up soon; however, the rest of the trail will take some work. Within the next week there should be a plan in place as to when it might reopen back up.

Board chair Eric Remick reported that he has been in communication with Ron Weisen about Jackson Dam. The Conservation Commission and Hardwick Electric have been looking into a study on whether it’s effective to have the dam there.

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