Concord City Council approves underground utilities, two years of construction in Penacook
The reconstruction of Route 3 through Penacook will take two years to complete, and will include burying utilities.
The Concord City Council voted last night to spend an additional $1.74 million on the project and issue bonds for this year’s construction, which includes $1.5 million to bury utility lines.
Work will begin this spring to bury utility lines along Village Street, from the intersection of Washington Street to the bridge across the Contoocook River. The rest of the money appropriated last night will cover the cost of repairing the Village Street bridge and completing final pavement overlay on the previous phase of the multi-year Route 3 project.
Construction through Penacook Village will now continue for two years; after the utility work is completed this year, the city will reconstruct Village Street in 2014. The streetscape work will include building a roundabout at the intersection of Village and Washington streets.
The council approved the project with a 14-0 vote; Ward 7 Councilor Keith Nyhan was absent.
“I think we have to look at these kinds of projects as investments in our community as a whole,” said Ward 5 Councilor Rob Werner. “I’m very confident that this kind of activity . . . will ultimately result in more economic development, which over time will return more tax dollars and expand our property tax base, more than pay it back.”
The utility work was suggested after a series of meetings between city officials and Penacook residents about the project. Penacook residents and business owners have said the utility work, roundabout and streetscape improvements will encourage the revitalization of the village’s downtown.
“We are relying on this project for the enrichment of our economic vitality,” said Ray Miner, a member of the Penacook Village Association.
Concord resident Roy Schweiker spoke against the utility project last night, questioning the choice to invest in a project that delays road improvement work and only benefits a small portion of the city.
“I don’t think it’s reasonable to have the ordinary taxpayers in the city pay a million and a half to make one small part of the city look nicer in some people’s opinion, when we have some real needs in the city that that money could help out with,” Schweiker said.
The six-phase Route 3 reconstruction project, which began in 2008, is now expected to continue through 2015.
The $1.74 million approved last night will be added to the existing $540,000 already in the project’s fund balance, according to a report from City Engineer Ed Roberge.
Heating Main Street
Heating both the street and sidewalks as part of Concord’s Main Street redesign would bring the total cost of the project to $11 million, according to a report from the city engineer. That’s $4 million more than the estimated project cost of $7.85 million for the Main Street work, which is scheduled to begin this fall.
Councilors did not make a decision last night about heating Main Street. Mayor Jim Bouley said the design process is “down to real questions” about construction and long-term maintenance costs.
But the installation of an underground snowmelt system also depends on Concord Steam’s construction of a new plant in the South End. Concord Steam is still working to secure its financing, and is expected to make a decision about its project by April 1, said Deputy City Manager for Development Carlos Baia.
The planned snowmelt system would use a series of underground pipes to channel waste heat from Concord Steam’s plant, and would not require additional energy. The city would spend about $5,000 annually for system maintenance, Roberge wrote in a report to the mayor and city council.
If the Concord steam plant is not built, the city could only heat the streets by producing its own heat source. Installing a natural gas system would cost between $2 million and $6 million. Annual operating costs would range from $40,000 to $500,000, Roberge wrote, “making the system not sustainable.”
Gene McCarthy of the engineering firm McFarland Johnson said the design team will need to know about Concord Steam and other design details in the coming weeks. The project is progressing from “big picture” designs into detailed planning, he said.
Though the city’s federal grant application included a plan to heat only the sidewalks, the Main Street advisory committee requested last fall that the project also include a snowmelt system for the road. The plan to heat Main Street has also received strong support from downtown business owners.
The city received a $4.71 million grant for the streetscape work; the rest of the project will be funded by the city and the private sector.
In other action last night, the council authorized City Manager Tom Aspell to apply for up to $1.5 million in tax credit grants from the state’s Community Development Finance Authority to go toward the private sector’s portion of the project.
The Main Street design team will next hold a public meeting about the project tonight, which McCarthy said will include a presentation on the history of Main Street. The meeting begins at 6 p.m. in the city council’s chambers at 37 Green St.
New bus stop
A bus stop will be added near the Friendly Kitchen.
The council voted last night to approve a bus stop at the corner of South Commercial Street and Constitution Avenue.
The stop will be added to Concord Area Transit’s crosstown route.
(Laura McCrystal can be reached at 369-3312 or
firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @lmccrystal.)