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Boscawen voters approve $3.2 million budget, money for bridge demolition

The fate of the historic Boscawen-Canterbury Bridge is in the hands of Canterbury voters after Boscawen residents approved money to demolish the crumbling span.

With no opposition, voters last night approved $200,000 to complete their share of the bridge demolition. At Friday’s town meeting in Canterbury, voters will consider a similar warrant article to approve $175,000 for the work. In both towns, the state Department of Transportation will reimburse 80 percent of the approved costs associated with demolition.

“Everything we’re hearing suggests they want to get it done as much as we do,” Alan Hardy, land use coordinator, said after the meeting at Boscawen Elementary School.

The $3.22 million operating budget for next year also passed without opposition.

The bridge warrant article said no money will go toward the demolition unless Canterbury approves its share of the cost. A “no” vote in Canterbury would push demolition out at least one year and could potentially put the reimbursement money in jeopardy. “The state funds could go away. That would be the worst case,” Hardy said.

During the meeting, selectmen said the bridge – built in 1907 and closed to traffic in 1965 – is a liability for both towns. Swimmers often jump from the bridge, and kayakers paddle beneath it during the summer.

“It’s a pretty hazardous bridge right now,” Selectman Bernard Davis said during the meeting.

Several years ago, a contractor agreed to the work, but the deal fell apart after a disagreement over who got to keep approximately $60,000 worth of steel from the bridge. This time, whoever gets the bid can keep the steel, Davis said.

If Canterbury approves the money, the two towns will solicit requests for proposals. “We’ll continue to work together with Canterbury to make it happen,” said selectmen Chairman Craig Saltmarsh.

Also last night, voters rejected a proposal to change the office of treasurer from an elected to an appointed position.

“What happens if you vote someone in for three years and they are not doing a great job? Sure, you can vote them out, but it’s a lot of work,” Saltmarsh said. “If we appoint someone and they are not doing a good job, you will let us know and we will take care of it.”

Residents criticized the motion for taking the decision away from voters.

“I think that this town needs a little more checks and balances with elected officials to this body of people,” resident Michele Tremblay said.

(Iain Wilson can be reached at 369-3313 or iwilson@cmonitor.com.)

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