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Bennington

Executive Council  rejects Pan Am plan

BENNINGTON — The N.H. Executive Council voted 3-2 at a May 15 meeting to reject the state Department of Transportation’s proposal to enter a contract with Pan Am Railways, which would have allowed the North Billerica, Mass., company to lease an 18-mile stretch of train tracks that runs from Bennington to Milford. A portion of the tracks has been in use by the Milford-Bennington Railroad Co. for the last 20 years.

Councilor Debora Pignatelli (D-Nashua) for District 5 said in a phone interview Wednesday she and Councilor Ray Burton (R-Bath) don’t care for the Pan Am’s history with the state, which brought about their negative votes.

The negative vote leaves the future of the tracks is in limbo . State Rep. Peter Leishman (D-Peterborough) has been the sole user of the tracks for 20 years; his Milford-Bennington Railroad operates a freight line that transports crushed stone from a Wilton quarry to Granite State Concrete, a processing plant in Milford.

Leishman and his Milford-Bennington Railroad company currently retain rights to operate using the tracks, N.H. DOT spokesman Bill Boynton said in an email to the Ledger-Transcript on Wednesday.

Leishman and Pan Am Railways both submitted bids to the DOT to lease the tracks, although Pan Am’s bid was deemed the only complete and responsive proposal, according to an April 4 contract request signed by DOT Commissioner Christopher Clement, which is posted on the N.H. Secretary of State’s website. The Executive Council met May 1 to vote on Pan Am’s contract, but ended up tabling it for two weeks because District 3 Councilor Chris Sununu was not present.

“In light of the recent action by the N.H. Executive Council,” Boynton wrote in an email, “the N.H. DOT is weighing options for moving forward, including the likely possibility of reissuing a request for proposals (RFP) for future operation of the line.”

Both Leishman Pan Am Executive Vice President Cynthia Scarano could not be reached for comment by press time.

Boynton did not give a timetable for any action the DOT may be taking in the future regarding the lease of the tracks.

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