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Hartford OKs Voter Resolutions

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 12/6/2018 11:56:23 PM
Modified: 12/6/2018 11:56:35 PM

White River Junction — The Hartford Selectboard this week unanimously passed two resolutions supported by voters.

At Tuesday’s Selectboard meeting at Town Hall, the Board voted, 5-0, to rename the second Monday in October Indigenous Peoples Day, replacing Columbus Day, and to forward to the state of Vermont a resolution advocating for renewable energy.

Both had been placed on Special Town Meeting ballots via public petitions to coincide with midterm elections on Nov. 6.

They passed handily at the polls, and Town Manager Leo Pullar recommended the Selectboard approve them at Tuesday’s meeting.

Selectman Dennis Brown voiced concern about labor agreements that include Columbus Day as a holiday for workers, but Pullar noted that the resolution is advisory in nature and that the term Indigenous Peoples Day wouldn’t be used in federal court, for example.

“(The Selectboard) and Hartford as a municipality doesn’t have the authority to rename holidays on a state and federal level,” Pullar told Brown, according to a video of the meeting broadcast on CATV. However, Pullar suggested that language in town documents be updated to include Indigenous Peoples Day.

Hartford became the latest of many U.S. towns and cities that have made a similar change because residents believe Christopher Columbus was an oppressive and exploitative colonizer.

“(The resolution) sends a strong message and reflects the will of the voters,” Pullar said.

While the renewable energy resolution passed decisively last month, Pullar said concerns about the accuracy of some of its statements prompted him to consult with Hartford energy coordinator Geoff Martin. Martin provided citations to back up nearly all of the language, but he and Pullar recommended one change.

The Selectboard agreed and took out one phrase that asserted that the “vast majority of the scientific community recognizes ... the expansion of fossil fuel infrastructure to be a major cause of climate change.” But in place of the pipeline language, members approved wording that said “the vast majority of the scientific community recognizes that human activities, primarily the extraction and burning of fossil fuel, are the major cause of climate change.”

Selectboard Chairman Simon Dennis, who helped draft the original resolution before he held his current position, said he thinks Pullar and Martin helped improve the document. Under its main charges to the state, the resolution still calls for halting “any new or expansion of significant fossil fuel infrastructure, including but not limited to pipelines.”

“The language is better now, because it’s not true that the scientific community is in unanimous consensus that expansion of fossil fuel infrastructure in particular is a major cause of climate change,” Dennis said in a Thursday phone interview. “The resolution still clearly states in the bullet points that the state should hold back on fossil fuel infrastructure.”

The Selectboard also approved several grant applications, including a U.S. Department of Agriculture community facility grant application for $27,830 toward the replacement of the roof at Bugbee Senior Center, which is more than 20 years old and has been leaking in multiple locations for years. The project, estimated at $50,600, is eligible for a USDA grant match of 55 percent, requiring $22,770 in town funds.

The Board also approved the application for a certified local government grant, administered by the state, to help cover the cost of an “intensive level survey” for detailed background and deed research to determine whether several neighborhoods in the Tafts Flat section of town, near Hartford High School and Hartford Memorial Middle School, are strong candidates for listing on the National Register of Historic Places.

Homes on Victory Circle, Worcester Avenue, Demers Avenue and in neighborhoods known as Highland Park and Manning Park were mostly built between the 1920s and 1950s and are strong examples of post-war housing booms, according to town planner Matt Osborn. The areas were recommended for more detailed surveys after more basic surveys were performed there in 2013 and 2015.

The grant would cover $9,500 of the estimated $15,800 cost of the survey.

“It gives residents a boost of pride and a greater sense of community,” when their homes are added to the National Register, Historic Preservation Commission Chairman Jonathan Schechtman said.

In discussing the proposed fiscal year 2020 budget, board members appeared to back Pullar’s $5,000 request to explore the need for a “community wellness” coordinator who, among other duties, might help direct 911 callers without emergencies to appropriate resources in town.

Selectman Alan Johnson, among others, supported the proposal, especially after learning about the success of a similar position in Plainfield.

“There is a huge potential for a significant return on investment,” in such a position, Johnson said.

Jared Pendak can be reached at or 603-727-3216.

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