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Wolcott Hydroelectric Generation Offline for up to Year

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by Gazette Staff

HARDWICK – At its October 19 regular meeting, the Hardwick Select Board discussed ongoing bridge repairs, the state of the electric department’s finances, and the town’s budget performance to date.

Town Manager David Upson said that work is ongoing to complete the Essential Elements of Information (EEI) in the FEMA grant portal for each project. Getting this information input is key to get reimbursements for completed projects. Representatives from FEMA viewed several sites, including Fisher Folly bridge, East Main Street bridge near Greensboro Bend, the retaining wall by the swinging bridge, and Tucker Brook Road bridge.

Upson reported that a disaster debrief was held with the Hardwick Neighbor to Neighbor group and community stakeholders that were part of the disaster response to assess what went well and what could be done better next time. The discussion identified updates to the emergency response plan, and how to improve emergency communications based on recent experience.

Upson reported that a Vermont Outdoor Recreation Economic Collaborative (VOREC) marketing project to create a recreation logo and map for Hardwick is coming along nicely. Peltz Creative is working on the final touches of the map and the final product will be an information packet for visitors to Hardwick.

Upson also mentioned that the slate repair of the Memorial Building roof has started, and that about half of the sludge has been removed from Lagoon 1 at the wastewater plant. The work should be completed in three weeks.

Road Foreman Tom Fadden reported that the Hideaway Reservoir was cleaned last week. Also, the road crew prepared Hardwick Farms Road for a temporary bridge and did some light grading on a few roads just outside of the village. The crew will continue grading and do truck maintenance to get the trucks ready for winter.

Hardwick Police Department (HPD) Chief Henry was not at the meeting, but Town Manager Upson shared that HPD officers wrote 12 parking tickets on Main Street in the no parking zone.

The Hardwick Electric Report (HED) was given by HED commissioner Michael Ambrosino, who reported that HED is looking into borrowing options to fund repairs to the Wolcott hydro plant damaged in the flood. The cost of repairs is estimated at $2 million. The plant will likely be out of commission for nine to 12 months. With the plant out of order, HED will have to buy power on the open market. Fortunately, prices for purchased power are currently lower than they have been in recent years.

HED is working on another rate increase to offset the increased expenses. HED crews are working overtime to replace poles, assisted by outside crews to get work done before winter.

Ambrosino reported that HED’s revenue is 4% under budget and expenses are 1% under budget.

Resident Steve Fortmann gave a presentation on air and water quality concerns on Bridgman Hill, specifically about water dispersal from an area farm. Fortmann said that some residents in the neighborhood sent letters to the manager of the farm, the state, and the select board. Board chair Eric Remick asked why Fortmann thought that the select board could help with the matter. Fortmann explained that a state official told him that a nuisance complaint should be handled by local government.

Fortmann said that there has been dialogue among the neighbors about the issue, but there has been no improvement. He added that he feels that the situation has gotten worse in 2023 and would like the future dialogue to be more public since he believes that their previous communication with the manager of the farm has been ineffective. The consensus was that, at this point, there is no action that the select board can take.

The select board voted unanimously to appoint Jan Mueller to the Hardwick Equity Committee, and to approve a cannabis cultivator license for Michael Parker.

Business Manager Casey Rowell presented the first quarter results of the town’s FY24 budget. Revenues are slightly ahead of plan at about 28% and expenses (excluding flood expenses) are at 21%. It was noted that the town is fortunate to have had the cash flow to handle the flood repairs without borrowing money due to residents paying their taxes, and water and sewer fees, in a timely manner.

Board member Shari Cornish then led a discussion about “The Lane,” the roadway parallel to South Main St. behind the Main St. buildings. The Lane is not currently maintained by the town because it is private. There is parking for residents and some business owners. There have been water and snow melt issues in the past, forcing residents to place sandbags to protect their buildings from water. Cornish said that the Lane is in the town’s Designated Downtown area and thinks that the town should outline required maintenance measures or offer maintenance advice to property owners. Board chair Remick said that users should plan the maintenance as the lane is private. It was suggested that the owners get together and create a private road maintenance agreement that could address the issues they are experiencing. Town Manager David Upson mentioned that he had spoken to some owners and made some suggestions on what they could do.

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