Hardwick, News

Board Approves Proposed Budget Increase of 7.5%

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HARDWICK – At a special meeting on January 10, the Hardwick Select Board discussed final changes to the draft budget it will present to voters at town meeting, approved several cannabis licenses, and approved a contract for the Town House accessibility project.

The board reviewed the draft budget for next fiscal year. At its previous meeting, the board discussed making changes to the capital equipment budget to reduce the amount set aside for equipment. Reducing the capital line item was seen as the only place to make cuts to lower the overall budget.

The board decided to move out the replacement of Truck No. 4 by one year and to delay the replacement of the police cruisers by one year. No cruiser will be purchased in FY25.

There was also discussion about the grader and loader, which are scheduled for replacement after 15 years, at an estimated cost of $550,000. The board decided to finance that equipment as it currently does, budgeting the annual payments when the time comes. Furthermore, the current loan is for 10 years, and the equipment is expected to last for 15 years, possibly providing a few years to save up money for a down payment on future equipment.

Another topic of discussion was the F150 and F250 trucks, which are on a seven-year replacement schedule. Board member Danny Hale indicated that, in the past, the town did not have trucks on a replacement schedule, operating them until they broke down. As part of the discussion, the concern was raised that trucks do not last like they used to and the F250 has done a fair amount of plowing in the village. The board decided to keep the trucks on replacement schedules but go extend the term for the F-250 from seven to eight years, and to 10 years for the F-150. If the trucks last longer than estimated, the town will keep them in service and replace them only when needed.

The reduction in capital equipment funding reduced the overall budget increase from the 9.96% proposed at the last meeting to 7.55%. While that increase is higher than the board would like, its members indicated that they believe that they have done everything they could to get it down to a reasonable figure. The initial draft budget called for an increase of 13%, so the proposed increase has already been cut significantly.

At the end of the discussion, the select board voted to approve the FY25 proposed budget of $4,018,083 to be presented to the voters at town meeting.

The board voted to approve the renewals for Indoor Cultivator Tier 1 (cannabis) licenses for VTegridy Farms and Naked Hemp. Monique Brochu was present to discuss her request for a new retailer license. Her attorney, David Silberman, was also present. Board chair Eric Remick asked Mr. Silberman why the location is not considered to be within 500 feet of the schools. Silberman explained that the rule was written to say 500 feet “and” an abutting property, instead of saying “or.” Therefore, the location does not violate that rule.

The town manager mentioned that in the past there have been complaints about people hanging out smoking tobacco and cannabis in the front of that building and he does not want to see that become a problem for the business owner. Brochu asked for that data to be shared with her so she can ensure that there is not an increase in these complaints once she opens. She anticipates opening sometime in February, but possibly not until March.

The board voted to approve the retailer cannabis license for Mill 47 LLC d/b/a/ The Cannabis Shop.

In a discussion of the Town House accessibility project, the board learned that even after extending the bid deadline, the only bid received was from Ruggco Construction Inc. of Barnet. NEKarts is paying for this project with grants and private fundraising, plus the $50,000 of ARPA funds awarded to the project by the town. After discussion, the board voted to accept the bid from Ruggco in the amount of $281,521. The project manager, Jamie Milholland, will prepare a contract between the contractor and the town because the town owns the building. The town already has a contract with Milholland.

The board collectively agreed that the Yellow Barn accelerator building changes the view when people first come into town, and it might be nice to paint a mural on the side of the barn at some point.

Board chair Remick brought up that the water run-off for Church Street was rerouted to North Main Street and mentioned that perhaps the water run-off near the rescue building could be routed to Maple Street to a catch basin. Town Manager David Upson explained that the water has to go under the Rail Trail, so a solution is not simple. There was discussion about federal aid being available in the future for projects like these.

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