By Curt Peterson
Seventy-two Hartland residents and local candidates attended the fifth annual Hartland Library-sponsored candidates night on Feb. 16 via Zoom.
Twelve attending candidates introduced themselves and described the office for which they are running, and why they are running. Then residents had an opportunity to ask office-seekers questions. They had a lot of them.
“I think several issues in town this year have engaged community members, along with recent discussions about possible uses for ARPA funds,” Library Director Nancy Tusinski said.
Hartland has qualified for $1,050,000 from American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) federal funds.
Six candidates are vying for two select board seats. Their “campaign promises” include “giving back to the community” “bringing new ideas,” “seeing completion of unfinished projects,” new perspective” and “fiscal prudence.”
Resident Tom Ripley asked candidates to identify their party affiliations — unlike for people seeking state or national offices, the Hartland ballot does not categorize participants as representatives of individual political parties.
Select Board candidate Clyde Jenne, selectman Phil Hobbie and former town moderator Pat Richardson all explained that elected board positions are non-political.
Gordon Richardson, a candidate for re-election, said only 10% of administrative issues are left for town governments to handle — the rest are managed at the state level —and the board tries to gather all possible solutions, discusses them, and eventually reaches a consensus, without applying any political philosophy.
Richardson called in-person town meetings “our most important tradition,” calling for their return and preservation.
Resident Sarah Bruce said research of attendance before and during the pandemic showed an increase of 40% since the advent of Zoom.
The two candidates for Hartland School Board seats —Heather Vonada and Nicki Buck —are both running unopposed. Buck, who is the current board chair, said her missions are equity, particularly socio-economic equity, and finding ways to make it easier for kids with dyslexia and other learning challenges to learn.
While some American schools are ending police presence on campus, Buck said Hartland Elementary School will continue its school resource officer (SRO) arrangement with the Windsor Police Department because state police cannot respond quickly enough to an emergency at the school.
She said the SRO is not uniformed, out of respect for kids who have had bad experiences with police.
Stacey Bradley is running for re-election as a lister, and says probable re-appraisal may be in Hartland’s future. Asked for details, she said Hartland’s CLA (Common Level of Appraisal) has shifted from 100% in 2020 to 90% one year later.
“And the minimum before the state mandates a reappraisal is 80%,” Bradley explained. “I think we’ll get a notice in two to four years.”
Almost every candidate considers “roads and bridges maintenance” to be at or near the top of the list. Maintaining town-owned buildings, police services for the town, and improved communications systems are deemed important as well.