Goals for Hartford: Reflections on the Hartford United flyer

I’ve sent the following memo to the town manager and selectboard in response to his call for ideas for a goals document.

The Hartford United campaign wrote: “We believe in the future of our town. We believe in the strength of our mix of villages. We believe it is time to develop a vision for our future, and strategies that can guide decisions.”

We laid out these ideas:

Making our town attractive to new residents and businesses so that our taxes remain stable

The only way to lower the tax burden is to spread it out. That only happens if the grand list grows. That only happens if more people and businesses move to Hartford. This has to be our #1 priority.
  • Keeping our Sewer, Water, Police, Fire and Recreation services A+
This is basic town governance stuff.
  • Working to keep the White River Junction mail processing plant from closing
Check – done.
  • Starting a “Keep Your Home” program for elderly taxpayers
This is something near and dear to me, Hunter. What I envision is a system under which taxpayers over 75 with sufficient equity in their homes could sign a contract with the town that would put a lien on their house in lieu of property tax payments. At their death or the sale of the property, the town would get all taxes due plus interest plus a fee. The program would start small, 10 to 25 properties, and we’d see how it went. What I don’t know and would like to explore is whether or not this would be possible under state law, whether we would have to enact an ordinance or could do it as a simple policy statement, etc. 
  • Moving ahead on rehabilitating the Municipal Building, the Barwood Arena, and cleaning up abandoned buildings
This is why I have been pressing on the dilapidated buildings and why I want us to be ready to go for the jugular with Wood at the very first moment the opportunity presents itself.
  • Extending public transportation, public trails and bike paths, sidewalks, community parks and riverfront access
I originally was going to focus only on this item for this email and then decided to do a fuller piece. This is a very big and expensive statement, but it ties directly to the first item and is the best route we have toward providing amenities that make Hartford attractive. I know you agree and have been working hard on the trails, biking, sidewalks and parks during your tenure. Thus, the main thing I want to get on our radar is public transportation, more particularly, increased Advance Transit service generally and new AT service out Route 4 to Quechee, at least as far as Waterman Hill Plaza and preferably to the Mid-Vermont Christian School, and out a bit further on Route 14. I would like to work with you to help AT bring proposals to us for the next budget cycle and more immediately to establish some sort of experimental service prior to July 1 2013, perhaps even as early as November 2012. Bottom line this is a question of how to rearrange dollars so we spend on AT instead of something else. Not sure how we square that circle, but retreating on the promise to keep our basic services at an “A+” level may be the price this platform has to pay.
  • Rebuilding what Irene destroyed, particularly the Quechee Covered Bridge, and supporting development of a multi-purpose community center in West Hartford that would include library services.
Done, and appears on the way to being done.
  • Embracing regional collaboration
I would like to see us putting hard numbers on hard offers to surrounding towns for providing services to them. Whether it is dispatch, ambulance, policing — I would like to see us sending letters to Norwich, Hartland, Woodstock, Pomfret, Bethel, Windsor / West Windsor making concrete proposals. I’d like to see our FD and PD chiefs thinking about how to turn their departments into “profit centers” for the town. Same could go for town operations as a whole — as you once observed to me, the town manager of Hartford, Hanover, West Leb, any one of you could probably run all three operations alone. That can’t be any less true for the towns around us on the Vermont side of the river. My definition of regional collaboration includes this idea of “selling” professional services to the surrounding towns. Because it is municipal services, and because there needs to be a sense of self-governance attached to the services, these offers can’t simply be about the money. They also have to include mechanisms for participating the decision making. I see this as being a lengthy effort that will take some time to come to fruition, but we need to start someplace and my desire is to put words on paper and paper in front of decision-makers.
  • Building the local food network and making Hartford a regional market center.
The notion of gaining control over the train station and, among other things, having a place for a WRJ farmer’s market is one small piece of this puzzle. Another is facilitating things like the community garden on the Quechee Green property. The bigger idea here, though, is looking for opportunities to enhance local production of food and distributing those foodstuffs to local markets. This might mean coming up with policies that grant tax credits, modify zoning, etc. I know far less about all this than I do about AT, sidewalks, regionalization.
  • Increasing our local self-sufficiency and developing plans to improve our resiliency
This ties in with the food piece, and also to the regionalization and transit pieces. We believe that every step we take in this direction makes our more densely populated, highly walkable neighborhoods very attractive and thus ties back to the original statement — which is, as I noted, a restatement of your goal for the town.

Did you enjoy this post? Why not leave a comment below and continue the conversation, or subscribe to my feed and get articles like this delivered automatically to your feed reader.


No comments yet.

Leave a comment