ROCKINGHAM, Vt. — The Rockingham Selectboard voted 3-2 in favor of the on-line bridge replacement last night, with the majority members citing cost as a primary reason for rejecting the alternative off-line proposal.
Chair Peter Golec, Vice-Chair Gaetano Putignano and board member Ben Masure voted in favor of the on-line bridge, which will replace the crumbling Depot Street Bridge with an identical concrete arch replica at the current site. Board members Stefan Golec and Susan Hammond voted for the alternative proposal, which would have converted Depot Street Bridge to a pedestrian bridge and built an angled, steel bridge that connected the Bellows Falls downtown to The Island, a high-density industrial area that Rockingham Development Director Gary Fox targets as a site for new business start-ups.
Golec, Putignano and Masure expressed similar concerns about the cost of the alternative bridge during a previous board discussion on June 2. The Vermont Agency of Transportation (V-Trans) estimated the town’s portion to build an on-site bridge to be $172,000, and to build the alternative bridge $353,100, an approximate difference of $181,000. Though V-Trans said Rockingham would also need to cover the full cost of mitigation if hazardous contamination is found in the soil at the Depot Street Bridge (which V-Trans engineers estimated to cost up to $140,000 in a worst-case scenario), Peter Golec dismissed that cost’s relevance. Golec said that the town could feasibly obtain grant funding to cover the mitigation cost. He also pointed out that soil contamination could be a strong possibility at the alternate site.
Putignano also raised concerns last night about the future cost on the town to manage the Depot Street Bridge if it chose the alternative proposal. According to V-Trans, had the town chosen the steel bridge, the state would move future maintenance funds to that new bridge but patch the surface of the existing Depot Street Bridge, which the town could continue using as a pedestrian-only bridge. V-Trans engineers said that, based on past data, patching the Depot Street Bridge for pedestrian use would only extend the bridge’s life to, at most, 20 more years.
However, once the Depot Street Bridge needed removal, the town would have to cover the full cost.
V-Trans engineers said at the joint meeting on July 30 that once the board selected a bridge option, the engineers would prepare a project plan for a town public hearing. The new bridge is expected to be complete by 2023.
Meeting House Open House
The selectboard held its meeting at the historic Rockingham Meeting House on Meeting House Road, with an earlier start of 5 p.m., as is its tradition on the annual Meeting House open house.
Susan Reing, coordinator of the town Historic Preservation Commission, reported in a letter to the selectboard that since opening for the season on Memorial Day, the Meeting House has received nearly 500 visitors and donations in the building’s capital reserve fund currently exceed $1,500.