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Concord City Council to make decisions on panhandling, Sewalls Falls Bridge, Main Street project

The Concord City Council will vote tomorrow on a panhandling ordinance, the future of the Sewalls Falls Bridge and preliminary plans for the Main Street redesign project.

A proposed ordinance would ban panhandlers from soliciting money from people who are in cars, bus stops and parking garages, or near banks and ATMs. It also prohibits panhandling “in an aggressive manner,” such as touching, following or intimidating people to solicit money.

Ward 4 Councilor Amanda Grady Sexton said last week that she has been in discussions with advocates for the homeless, who have voiced concerns. Grady Sexton is chairwoman of the city’s Public Safety Board, which recommended the ordinance to the city council.

“I have reached out to concerned advocates from the homelessness community, and we are working on a compromise,” she said.

The city council will hold a public hearing before voting on the ordinance.

The council is expected to make a decision tomorrow about the Sewalls Falls Bridge. City Engineer Ed Roberge has recommended that the council replace the aging one-lane bridge over the Merrimack River. If approved, the plan would change a 2006 decision to rehabilitate the bridge and build a second bridge alongside it.

The council will hear public input tomorrow about the Main Street project, for which the city received a $4.71 million federal grant. In a report to the mayor and city council, Roberge recommended the council accept preliminary plans for: parallel parking along the west side of the street and angled parking on the east side; sidewalks at least 18 feet wide north of Pleasant Street and at least 12 feet wide south of Pleasant Street; and the closure of Phenix Avenue to create a pocket park. A roundabout design for the intersection of Pleasant and Main streets is not mentioned in Roberge’s report.

Final designs for Main Street will be approved later this spring.

The meeting begins at 7 p.m. in the council’s chambers at 37 Green St.

It is important to replace the iconic Sewalls Falls bridge with a generic I-beam bridge with standard aluminum railing, and leave it nameless. We would not want people to get sentimental about it someday, calling it "historic" or "aesthetically pleasing;" burdening future generations with preservation costs. We should not build memorable things during our times of diminished expectations and fiscal duress. Our "built environment" should reflect whom we are: nothing. ---SWL

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