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Hardwick Electric Commissioners Plan Operations Absent General Manager

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HARDWICK – Hardwick Electric Department’s (HED) April 15 meeting began with approval of previous minutes, and the April 12 minutes revised from the previous draft to indicate “There was discussion about planning for management after the general manager’s resignation.”

photo by Hal Gray
The auger truck of Hardwick Electric Department’s Contractor, Charles Curtis LLC of Danville, just completing installation of a taller utility pole on The Bend Road’s French Hill (beside St. Michaels Catholic Church), on Monday, April 1. The new poles allow room to install fiber optic cables to handle broadband service, in addition to lines for electric power and telephone service.

A discussion between commissioners, HED Foreman Brian Forant, and other former and current HED employees talked with the commissioners about contractors doing work to prepare poles for fiber optic lines (make-ready), the lack of linemen and the possibility of bringing in former employees as long as it didn’t have a negative impact on relationships with the department’s union workers. Being able to find qualified employees and how many are included in the budget were also part of the discussion.

Forant confirmed that employees are first handling critical projects and that customer jobs are not being delayed by a lack of labor, but only by a lack of transformers.

The discussion covered how the department will continue to operate without a general manager. Authority was given to Forant to work with a commissioner to see about bringing back recently retired line workers.

Pat Morrissey, an HED employee joining via Zoom, asked about plans to purchase a bucket truck to replace outdated equipment. Commission Chair Lynne Gedanken indicated she believed the purchase was in the capital budget and commissioners would see about getting that moving.

Gedanken then indicated that getting linemen is the first priority and working on customer projects is a close second.

Hardwick Select Board Chair Eric Remick and Forant spoke about work on the Yellow Barn project.

A good bit of the remaining conversation involved assuring Forant that the commissioners supported his work in this period before an interim general manager is brought on, and that the commissioners wanted him to be involved in all communication between the board and staff.

Curiously, minutes for that part of the meeting, lasting close to 30 minutes indicate only that, “The board listened to public comment, no action was taken.”

Commissioners then agreed to open an account with People’s Trust Company of St. Albans with a favorable interest rate. Controller and Business Office Supervisor Beth Essary said she plans for electronic payments to be deposited into that account and later transferred to a Union Bank account. The commissioners authorized Essary and all the commissioners to be signatories on the account.

Subsequently, a lengthy motion was made to establish Union Bank as a depository for HED funds, again with Essary and all five commissioners as signatories. A line of credit was also renewed.

Financial statements were reviewed with discussion of billing and the markup for make-ready work.

Vermont Public Power Supply’s (VPPSA) General Manager, Ken Nolan, joining on Zoom, discussed a contract with Morrisville Electric that would allow HED to obtain power from that direction. Nolan suggested that negotiations may have broken down, at least in part, as a result of Mike Sullivan’s approach, suggesting further discussion should be held in executive session.

HED is a VPPSA member, relying on them for power purchases, rate analysis, and other support services.

There was then a discussion of the public who had been in the earlier portion of the meeting that isn’t noted in the minutes. Gedanken asked for a list of employees and others associated with HED, again noting that “it’s critical for Brian [Forant] to be ‘kept in the loop’”. A plan was established for commissioners to work with staff before an interim general manager is brought on.

The remainder of the meeting was spent in executive session to discuss two customer issues, and a confidential employee matter.

Paul Fixx is editor of The Hardwick Gazette and lives in Hardwick.

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