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Ribbon cutting marks completion of Route 16 project

A ribbon cutting with city officials, the Mayor, county delegation, community members and Executive Councilor Joseph Kenney was held at the Heritage Park on Friday for the completion of the Route 16 construction project. (Photo by Jody Houle) (click for larger version)
May 16, 2018
BERLIN City officials, the county delegation, many community members and Executive Councilor Joseph Kenney joined Mayor Paul Grenier and staff of HEB Engineers and of Burgess BioPower on Friday, May 11 at the Service Credit Union Heritage Park for a ribbon cutting for the completion of the Route 16 construction project.

The $7 million capital improvement project, mostly consisting of improvements along the Androscoggin Valley River on upper Main Street, was recently completed after two years on construction.

Burgess BioPower helped secure additional funding through a PILOT program, and was commended.

"Using innovative ways to fund needed and necessary projects shows Berlin's resiliency and our commitment to the city's future," said Grenier. "We see a bright future for Berlin, with a bustling downtown and thousands of visitors. To achieve that vision, we need to replace old, worn infrastructure with new public assets that include safety, function and aesthetics, all of which was accomplished in this one capital improvement project thanks to the presence of Burgess BioPower."

The project was proposed originally in 2003, but was put on hold due to a lack of grant funding and raised, matched local funds. The city started receiving Burgess BioPower PILOT funds in 2011 and the City re-visited the project in 2013.

An official press release on the project stated that Berlin "secured a new $5.5 million bond, using the Burgess BioPower PILOT to cover the payments, adding to the city's existing $1.5 million bond to fully finance the project."

"The Route 16 project has been a great effort to revitalize Berlin and to support infrastructure which in turn will spur economic development opportunities for the city," said Kenney. "The need to invest in new infrastructure to replace old infrastructure is the economic key to any city or town in the North Country. Berlin is doing it right by taking on this commitment."

Some of the improvements include a storm water collection system and a full reconstruction of the road from Success Street to the Twelfth Street bridge. Also part of the construction was granite curbing, masonry brick pavers and planted trees. Old road surface was replaced for drainage purposes and to eliminate potholes and to "bring the driving experience up to new road standards."

On the west side of the road, there is a new concrete sidewalk with masonry brick layers and granite curbing.

There was much landscaping done and several trees were planted along the river bank.

HEB Engineers of North Conway designed and oversaw the project. Sargent Construction of Stillwater, Maine was the general contractor.

"Burgess BioPower is committed to our community, to both Berlin and the state," said David Walker, Plant Manager of Burgess BioPower. "Of the more than 20,000 truckloads of wood chips we handled in 2017, a large portion was sourced from nearly 80 NH-based suppliers, which helped to boost the logging and sawmill industry. In addition to our team in the plant, we also support more than 200 jobs throughout the state, and we contributed nearly $4 million in taxes, fees and charges paid to local and state government in 2016. But nothing beats seeing how our team and plant contribute to the community like driving down the new and improved Route 16."

"Berlin is a vital part of the region and a major center of economic, social and cultural activities in the North Country," said state Sen. Jeff Woodburn, who was unable to attend the ceremony. "Making it easier to get into and move around town will only grow the city's important role in the region. Repairing and improving Route 16 is only the start of projects to come that will bring more people to Berlin to work and visit."

In the press release, it is stated that the city council wants to continue to capitalize on the Burgess BioPower PIOLOT payments as often as possible to help finance certain other "long-needed" capital improvement projects that total $40 million.

It was announced that the city will begin to initiate the river walk project along Route 16 next summer. The multi-use river walk will start at the heritage park and end at the Twelfth Street Bridge. It will have public park spaces, benches and landscaping.

The river walk is estimated to cost $1.1 million, which will be funded by a Northern Borders Regional Commission grant, a Transportation Alternatives Program grant from the New Hampshire Department of Transportation (NHDOT), and funding from the city.

The city is inviting the public for input on the river walk project. A public meeting with the planning board will be held on June 5 at Berlin City Hall at 6:30 p.m.

Martin Lord Osman
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