Hardwick, News

Police Officers Hired, HED Close to Appointing Interim GM

photo by Paul Fixx The temporary bridge on Hardwick Farms Road is too narrow, with sides too high to allow farm equipment from both big and small area farms to cross, requiring a long detour. It replaces a bridge that was washed out in July 2023’s flooding while the town works on plans for a permanent replacement.

HARDWICK – The select board heard about the hiring of new police officers, another FEMA buyout, the status of road grading, a planning commission update of by-laws that’s beginning and the Yellow Barn project at their April 18 meeting.

They approved the town’s 2024 Emergency Management Plan, appointed a new commissioner to the electric department board, approved hanging a Circus Smirkus event banner for a week in June and a week in August, and nominated Select Board Chair Eric Remick to replace Danny Hale as the town’s representative to convey real estate.

Town Manager David Upson’s report about the temporary bridge, now on Hardwick Farms Road, where it crosses Porter Brook in East Hardwick, brought the most discussion. It is now a 12-foot wide temporary bridge, so Upson has been looking at options for a permanent one, which is made more urgent because farm equipment cannot cross the bridge and needs to go a long way to get to fields just across the bridge.

Both small and larger farms have equipment that cannot cross the current bridge according to John Laggis. Renaud Demers, on Renaud Road, has been affected, as have the Notterman’s Snug Valley Farm and Fairmont Farms on Pumpkin Lane. Chad Allair on Center Road, Jasper Hill on Bridgemen Hill and the Laggis Farm, just above the bridge have all had to reroute their trips too.

Upson has been exploring a range of options with VTRANS; considering an extra-wide bridge, a two lane bridge, two culverts with gravel and a gravel stream-level crossing. FEMA will not cover the cost of this project and all the options are expensive, temporary, or may not be feasible for either the state or the landowners.

Upson hopes to have a solution by Fall. With permitting, high water, and waiting on what exactly the solution might be, a new bridge may not be in place until 2025.

Tim Ricciardello suggested the town reimburse bridge users for their farm equipment and pay them to go around. Upson replied that it’s not just the extra cost, it’s also the extra time to always go around affecting landowners and businesses using the road.

The board suggested that Upson facilitate a meeting between the landowners and the state to come up with a potential solution.   

The planning commission is working on updating the by-laws, which will go to the development review board and then to the select board for approval following a public comment period. ​

A landowner approached the zoning administrator (ZA) about a FEMA buyout for a property on Route 14 South that sustained significant flood damage.​ The landowner will continue to work with the ZA if they wish to move forward with the buyout. ​ The deadline for a buyout through FEMA is June 21, 2024. ​

Hardwick Electric Department (HED) Commissioner Myles Kamisher-Koch reported that commissioners are close to finalizing the appointment of an interim general manager. Vermont Public Power Supply Authority, of which HED is a member, has been a huge help throughout the transition. Kamisher-Koch appreciated that staff is continuing to work hard and keeping things running during this time since HED General Manager Mike Sullivan’s sudden resignation earlier in April.

Renaud Demers, a former HED employee, will fill the remainder of a three-year HED commissioner seat, with a term expiring on June 30. Demers told the board he has worked in the electrical industry since 1973. He felt that many good improvements were made to the system during his time working for the department, from which he recently retired. He wants to join the board, where he hopes to continue making good improvements, while maintaining a reasonable electric rate and reliable service.

Hardwick Police Department (HPD) has hired two employees to start in May, according to Chief Mike Henry. He reported they will attend the part-time police academy in June.

The department is still in the process of interviewing for another full-time position according to Chief Henry, who said he’s working on implementing new in-car radar systems and getting bids for new radios. ​

Upson is waiting to hear from Homeland Security regarding a grant for a radio repeater to improve the town’s communication with emergency responders.

The Hardwick Historical Society is planning to make improvements near the Depot that the select board generally agrees with. They will be looking for a local contractor to do the work. ​

Danny Hale has agreed to work with Woodbury Select Board Chair Diane Peduzzi to see if they can get the Hardwick-Woodbury Lamoille Valley Rail Trail Committee going again.

Police Officer Basic Training, formerly called Part-Time Basic Training, for the two new HPD officers consists of 80 hours of training over eight days. Following phase one training, new officers “will be granted a provisional certification and have law enforcement authority only in the presence of a fully certified police officer until successful completion of phases two and three,” according to the Vermont Criminal Justice Council website.

The new officers will receive basic training in the use of force and tactics, crime scene investigation, as well as search and rescue techniques. Fair and impartial policing, interacting with people experiencing a mental health crisis and responding to domestic violence situations will also be part of that training. Their medical training will cover First Aid, CPR, awareness of bloodborne pathogens and hazardous materials awareness.

An additional 110 hours of training are then required in the following year before they can be granted law enforcement authority when on their own.

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

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