Temporary bridge not recommended by selectmen

FRANCESTOWN — A proposal to pay for a temporary one-lane bridge, estimated at about $70,000, will not be backed by Francestown Select Board. Voters, however, will still have an opportunity to add the funds to the operating budget during the March 16 Town Meeting.

The Select Board did not recommend an amendment to increase the town’s operating budget to include funds for a temporary one-lane bridge proposed by residents. Two bridges in Francestown have been closed since Decemeber — one on the 2nd N.H. Turnpike and one on Woodward Hill Road.

Kris Stewart of Francestown Sand and Gravel recommended a one-lane bridge to be constructed on the 2nd N.H. Turnpike. The recommendation was made to help alleviate some traffic on Red House Road, which serves as the detour route around the Turnpike bridge.

Francestown Select Board Chair Betsy Hardwick said in a phone interview Tuesday that town officials considered the option, but ultimately it was too costly and too time consuming.

“By the time the bridge is installed, it would be roughly June [of 2013],” Hardwick said. “The Turnpike bridge is scheduled to be repaired in June of 2014, so it’s basically a one-year benefit. And $70,000 is a lot to spend for a one-year benefit.”

According to the Feb. 7 Francestown budget hearing minutes, resident Lisa Bourbeau asked to revisit the temporary one-lane bridge solution.

Bourbeau said in a phone interview Monday that parts of the bridge could be salvageable and later moved to Woodward Hill Road.

Residents originally suggested reallocating funds from Warrant Article 4, which seeks $180,000 for Pleasant Pond Road reconstruction, in order to pay for the temporary bridge. But because the warrant article is specific, it cannot be amended.

Residents must now wait until March 16 to see if they have enough votes to amend the operating budget.

Design plans for the bridge include several components, such as concrete block abutments, steel beams, and a timber deck placed on the surface made of several oak planks.

Stewart came up with the original plans for the bridge, and consulted CLD Engineers of Manchester on the design.

Hardwick said that there are numerous other repairs that need to be made to town property, so the temporary bridge is not an option among selectmen.

“We’re doing what we believe is fiscally responsible, and a temporary repair does not make sense,” Hardwick said.

Francestown has two other bridges that are on the state’s red list, which means they will need to be repaired soon and could be in danger of closing. The Town Hall also needs significant renovations, Hardwick said.

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