Hartford Seeks TIF For Infrastructure

Valley News Staff Writer
Friday, January 04, 2019

White River Junction — The Selectboard voted unanimously this week to seek $5.5 million in tax increment financing toward infrastructure improvements in downtown White River Junction, and also approved a capital improvement plan after debating at length about how to handle ranking its priorities.

Wayne Elliott, president of Essex Junction, Vt.-based Aldrich and Elliott Water Resource Engineers, outlined the initial parameters of the infrastructure project at Tuesday’s Selectboard meeting. It would upgrade water lines, install new sidewalks and replace some others, repair a retaining wall and pave and reconstruct roads on parts of North Main Street, South Main Street and Gates Street.

New hydrants and 12-inch cast iron water lines would be installed, while the early 1900s-era clay storm and sewer pipes would be updated with sliplining, a smaller pipe made of composite material and commonly inserted into existing pipe systems to treat leakage and stability issues, Elliott said.

“I believe (the sliplining is) about ½-inch think, so you lose a little bit of diameter, but it doesn’t affect (flow) capacity,” Elliott said.

Residents still would need to vote in favor of pursuing the bond through TIF financing, which allows the town to make repayments with additional tax revenue generated by increased property values in the district. Hartford’s TIF district covers downtown on both sides of the White River.

At the Selectboard’s Dec. 18 meeting, Hartford planning and development director Lori Hirshfield also had proposed an $811,700 TIF project to reconfigure and add green space to the Town Square municipal parking lot across from Hotel Coolidge, but the Selectboard decided to table that project in order to conserve more of its remaining available TIF financing.

Hartford has until March 2021 to use a total of $13 million in TIF financing, and has used about $3.7 million to date. If the Gates and Main infrastructure project is approved by voters at Town Meeting, the town would be left with about $3.8 million for future TIF projects.

The town’s capital improvement plan, containing nearly $17.4 million in priorities identified by town staff, eventually was approved after Selectboard member Becca White made a motion to approve it “with the understanding that it is a living document.”

Chairman Simon Dennis had suggested ranking the order of priorities as listed in Pullar’s presentation — 21 items ranging from $1.4 million in fire equipment upgrades to a $1 million sidewalk project near Quechee Gorge — and making motions if anyone wished to reposition them.

Despite nearly 90 minutes of discussion, only five motions were made to reposition items, and only one of them passed: White’s motion to move an estimated $600,000 project to restore Wright Reservoir Dam to No. 21 from No. 17.

White, a fourth-year member of the Selectboard, suggested the price of replacing the once-popular fishing hole and picnic area on Hurricane Hill — drained in 2015 because of safety concerns — is simply too high.

“I realize I’m alienating passionate people in this community, but I’m just not in favor,” said White, whose motion to relegate the item to the bottom of the list passed, 4-2. “I think we should keep it on this list because we want to imagine that there’s some possibility that we’ll do it, but I don’t think we have the stomach to actually approve it.”

A proposed $3.6 million item to replace the town’s municipal outdoor pool from remains at 13 on the list, and $3.3 million for a Fairview Terrace retaining wall is No. 11.

Jared Pendak can be reached at jpendak@vnews.com or 603-727-3216.