Story of the year No. 8: State agrees to plow I-393 sidewalk

  • A wheelchair placed near where a disabled Concord man was killed in a traffic accident this year asks: “State of NH or City of Concord?” NICK REID / Monitor staff

  • An inmate from the State Prison cleans off the snow on the bridge on east end of I-393 in Concord after a recent snow storm. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

Monitor staff
Published: 12/27/2016 6:51:05 PM

His name was Gene Parker.

He died after a car struck his wheelchair along Interstate 393, next to a snowy sidewalk that was impassable to him. He was one of Concord’s homeless.

His death led to a battle between city and state government officials over which entity was responsible to clear the area during winter so no one else would suffer Parker’s fate.

A solution was finally found after an empty wheelchair this winter posed the written question “State of New Hampshire or City of Concord?”

The state agreed this month to clear the snow from the sidewalk along Interstate 393, which is part of a direct route to the city’s only soup kitchen, ending for now the yearslong dispute.

The agreement for the state to do the job broke the Department of Transportation’s prior stance that it doesn’t handle winter maintenance on sidewalks. It came almost 11 months after the disabled, 52-year-old Parker died there.

For much of the year, state and city officials expected the Friendly Kitchen would take up the responsibility this winter, as it did in the springtime months after Parker’s death. But the soup kitchen said it was warned by its insurance company that clearing the snow could make the nonprofit liable for anyone injured there, potentially jeopardizing its existence altogether.

After the Friendly Kitchen said it couldn’t do the job, DOT Commissioner Victoria Sheehan signed an agreement with Concord City Manager Tom Aspell, effective through May 30.

In the short term, minimum security inmates from the state prison will shovel the sidewalk. The DOT plans to hire a contractor to remove the snow, however, for which the city will pay the cost, up to $5,000, according to the memorandum of agreement.

Throughout the course of the dispute – in which the state maintained that it doesn’t treat sidewalks and the city refused to do the state’s job – community members pointed to the conflict as evidence of inept government, especially as the responsibility nearly fell to a soup kitchen.

But ultimately, state and city representatives worked out a temporary solution that involved both governments.

As a condition of the agreement, the state and city said they’d meet again before the agreement’s May 30 expiration date “to discuss a long-term maintenance and/or renovation plan” for the sidewalk.

(Nick Reid can be reached at 369-3325, nreid@cmonitor.com or on Twitter at @NickBReid.)




Concord Monitor Office

1 Monitor Drive
Concord,NH 03301
603-224-5301

 

© 2021 Concord Monitor
Terms & Conditions - Privacy Policy