East Hardwick, News

Fire District Holds Annual Meeting

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by Cheryl Luther Michaels, Community Journalist

EAST HARDWICK – The 2023 Annual Meeting of the East Hardwick Fire District no.1 (EHFD) was held on August 8, at 7 p.m., in the Fellowship Room of the First Congregational Church of East Hardwick. 

The treasurer’s report was given by John Mandeville. “As you can see, financially we’re in pretty good shape,” commented Mandeville. “By the time this new year is over, unless something drastic happens, we will be in a positive, net income basis. Mandeville also called attention to three one-time expenses that were incurred this year: the conversion of the accounting data which was higher than anticipated due to the ancient version of QuickBooks previously used by the district, a land survey for the River Street property owned by the EHFD and a mandatory drone inspection of the reservoir.

At the meeting Eric Stephens was elected as trustee replacing Rachel Kane who had resigned. Tracy Martin was elected auditor for the next year. Doug Casavant was appointed fire chief.

Each year at the annual meeting, the water rates are discussed. The group voted not to raise the rates this year since they were recently raised from $100 to $200 and the operating budget is now sound. Gary Michaels commented that the upcoming surveys and capital planning process will determine what future increases should be, if any.

Randy Thompson gave the operator’s report, after which the group gave him a standing ovation for “all of his work this year.” The trustees are volunteers and Thompson receives no compensation, despite his professional expertise. 

In his report Thompson said “Five million gallons of drinking water were extracted, treated and distributed to 80-plus water customers. During the year, approximately five water leaks were identified and repaired utilizing trustees and local contractors. We were forced to introduce continuous chlorination and monitor those results, as well as gathering daily flow numbers at the reservoir itself. And we agreed to source an operator from the town of Hardwick, Ken (LaCasse), who’s been doing that since late August of last year.”

According to Thompson the root and tree problems at the site have been “a little bit of a nightmare” and are high on the list now. Also, due to the heavy rains there may be surface water interacting with the springs. Because the wet ground makes it difficult to work in that area, Thompson proposed working on the two top springs from above in order to start getting something done. “Over the coming weeks” reported Thompson, “we will learn more about this because we will have somebody from the state coming in. I’m preparing a lot of paperwork for them now.”

Thompson and Stephens visited the site on Saturday and talked about the tremendous amounts of water. “I’ve never seen anything like that before” Thompson stated, reporting that further up Ward Hill, you could see where raging water made a river through the fields and to the right of New Spring. Referring to the plan to have Manosh Water Services in Morrisville remediate the springs “I still have hope that we’re going to be able to do something,” said Thompson. “We just may do it a little differently.”

As the board chair, O’Brien gave a summary of the past year’s activities starting in August of 2022 when the board transitioned from the previous three trustees to a larger, five trustee board. Highlights included negotiating with the town of Hardwick to assist with operation of the sampling after the loss of the district’s water engineer, Ed Keene and retaining Douglas Casavant as a field supervisor for repairs.  

They purchased a new chlorine meter, which will save time and is more accurate, and they received an estimate for restoring the springs. An inventory of parts was compiled and purchased so they will be available for future urgent repairs.

In other business, the district transitioned the accounts to an updated system, employed a bookkeeper and adopted by-laws to govern the organization. They also started an operations manual, getting ahead of the state requirement, and began to develop an alert system by collecting emails and telephone numbers of rate payers and residents. The treasurer and bookkeeper started working with rate payers whose accounts are in arrears, and the secretary created a web page to make minutes and other information more readily available.

The trustees have worked to obtain grants to offset the costs of setting up an asset management system, complying with Federal requirements to assess pipes and detecting leaks.

Looking forward, the trustees appointed O’Brien to represent the district in the Better Connections Planning Process and Mike Lance to look into options for taking down the old fire station / library building.

O’Brien reiterated rate payers are encouraged to bring their concerns to board meetings for discussion. The board meets on the first Tuesday of the month at 7 p.m. Minutes of meetings are available on the district’s web page at ehfd.mystrikingly.com/.

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