On January 11, 2023

Hartland intersection moves forward

By Curt Peterson

A large crowd attended Hartland’s Jan. 3 Select Board meeting, more than a dozen of whom participated in a discussion expanding the time designated for “public comment” to almost 90 minutes. The topic: the long-proposed reconfiguration of the Three Corners intersection.

Most speakers had strong opinions, but board chair Phil Hobbie demonstrated a subtle talent for hearing out everyone’s remarks and maintaining complete civility.

The discussion was very much “closing the barn door after the horse escaped,” at least for those opposed to the project. 

Town Manager David Ormiston told the Mountain Times the requests for proposals were sent out Jan. 4, the day after the meeting. The deadline for submitting bids is Feb. 10.

The Select Board approved this “next step” at its Dec. 14 meeting, attended by few residents. At that meeting four selectpersons had voiced opposition to going forward, but, when selectman Jim Rielly moved to stop it, no one seconded the motion and the die was cast.

Objections included tax increases, misplaced priorities for use of discretionary reserve money to fund the project, lack of documented need for improved safety, and assertions that most residents are opposed to the project “another vote” is called-for.

At the end of the discussion Hobbie reminded attendees that voters were asked twice to express their approval or disapproval of the project — once in 2014 when a slim margin green-lighted an early version, and again in 2020 when voters approved the $1,062,000 project by two-to-one.

Bidding then resulted in very high proposed costs, and the Select Board opted to delay the project. Then Covid put the brakes on most major work for some time.

Hobbie said he was a selectman in 2020, and passionate opposition was expressed then too, but the subsequent Australian ballot revealed overwhelming support.

Fire Chief John Sanders admitted it’s been a while since there was an accident at the intersection, that there has never been a fatality, that there have been few crashes altogether, but he cited safety concerns when it becomes necessary to evacuate Hartland Elementary School, marching the students through the intersection to Damon Hall, a process practiced recently under his supervision.

Other proponents said the intersection is treacherous for pedestrians, encouraging people to drive rather than walk to nearby destinations, that the consequences of aborting the project and returning a state grant would be severe, and that aesthetic improvements gained in reconfiguration have been “under-rated.” Resident Rob Foote pointed out that the annual cost of the project represents just .05% of the town’s budget — indicating the effect on taxes will not be dire as some fear.

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