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DOT struggling to raise money for public workers memorial

  • A sign was placed at the proposed location of a memorial for public works employees killed on the job at the NHDOT’s office in Concord. (Courtesy / Bill Boynton NHDOT)

  • Artist’s rendition of the proposed memorial for public works employees killed in the line of duty. The project is expected to break ground in July with a proposed completion date no later than Sep. 30. (Courtesy / Bill Boynton NHDOT)

Monitor staff
Published: 5/31/2018 11:09:18 PM

Public works employees from across New Hampshire work on the state’s infrastructure in dangerous, sometimes life-threatening situations. They’re the plow truck drivers who clear roads in the winter, the people in hard hats and reflective vests who repair roads and erect bridges and the men and women who treat wastewater.

Over the last 50 years, 34 of those employees have died while working, and many more have had near-death experiences.

Now, the Department of Transportation is renewing an effort to raise money and resources for the construction of a memorial at its Concord office on Hazen Drive.

The resources required to build the memorial are proving difficult to acquire since legislation was passed nine years ago to establish a committee to oversee planning and construction.

“We’ve had a big push last week just to try to create a certain sense of urgency. ... The goal is to try to do it this year,” DOT spokesman Bill Boynton said.

The public works memorial will be different from other similar monuments, Boynton said.

“While it’s primarily remembering those who died on the job of public service, public works in New Hampshire ... it can be a focal point for ongoing, any kind of events which promote safety, that sort of thing. So it has a present and a future component to it,” Boynton said.

In 2009, former New Hampshire governor John Lynch signed House Bill 608 into law. The law established a six-person committee that has grown to 11 seats with the goal of establishing a location for the memorial, approving a design and privately raising money for its construction. The original plan called for the memorial’s completion by 2011.

By August of 2009, the committee was off to a
quick start: It had approved the location and coordinated a design contest for high school and college students – which ended in December of 2010.

In 2011, Kelsie Lee Clarke’s design won the contest and was chosen for the memorial. Clarke is the daughter of committee chairman Richard Lee, who is also the public works director for the town of New London.

Before fundraising began, Landscape Architect Cheri Ruane presented six detailed drawings to the committee for final approval.

The final design includes walkways lined with 24 shovels in descending heights to represent the 24 hours per day employees can be called upon.

Four different granite blocks will represent the four seasons, while a slab of black granite will be engraved with the names of those killed on duty, surrounded by a significant amount of vegetation.

Department of Transportation Director of Operations Dave Rodrigue said Clarke was inspired to draw her plan after a friend of hers was killed working on a public project in New London.

As of Thursday, a sign showing the design plan and a message asking for donations can be seen at the proposed site.

“We’re not a group that does particularly well going out and saying, ‘Give us some money so we can build a memorial to our people who died doing this work,’ ” Rodrigue said. “However, it is a very worthy goal, very worthy to ask money for.”

Rodrigue – a voting member of the committee – said $80,000 is needed to break ground by the end of July, with a goal of finishing the memorial by Sept. 30.

Rodrigue said the 34 people killed on the job over the last 50 years already have a space reserved on the black granite for their names. Other vacant spaces exist for future deaths should they occur.

In order to be eligible to have a name placed on the memorial, the worker must have collected a paycheck from a municipality, town, city or state government
and excludes private employees conducting public service.

“The committee struggled with, ‘Where do we draw the line?’ ” Rodrigue said. “The committee decided very early on that the line would be drawn with employees that collect their paycheck from a municipal government.”

Part of the legislation established a special state account to hold money raised for the project. Rodrigue said the current account balance is just over $37,700, with donations coming from many different companies and individuals. The largest donation to date was $10,500 in two different payments from Continental Paving Inc.

The goal is to raise just over $100,000, with $80,000 going toward construction and another $26,000 to pay for future maintenance costs.

Rodrigue said the legislation does allow for the reuse of state-owned material, like granite road curbs. The city of Manchester has donated some granite blocks which need to be cut to create benches that are planned at the site. Other private companies and family members of employees killed have offered their services to create the memorial.

Rodrigue said he expects the project to come in well under budget, leaving behind ample resources for future maintenance of the memorial.

Clarke and representatives from Continental Paving could not be reached in time for publication.

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