FITCH'S BRIDGE: Replacement Approved by 2/3 Majority at Special Town Meeting
Equestrians, bicyclists and pedestrians can look forward to crossing Nashua River from Fitch's Bridge Road to West Groton shore near Wallace Road following approval at Saturday's Special Town Meeting to demolish the existing 1898 steel bridge and replace it with a new truss bridge. The old bridge has been closed to public use since the mid 1960s.
Greenway Committee Chairman David Manugian outlined reasons to replace the bridge citing: Deteriorating structure; a restored connection has been part of the Master Plan; connection of 70 miles of trails in Groton and 30 miles of trails in West Groton; the only non-vehicular connection between the two sides of the river; the Greenway Committee believes that this is the most cost-effective option, and the climate for competitive construction bids.
The bridge proposal came forward at special town meeting because the expected $600-700K cost would have become part of the bond that would be issued for the new fire station. However, when bids for demolition and replacement came in much lower at $385K, Town Manager Mark Haddad suggested that the Community Preservation Committee (CPC) Fund could be used for replacing the bridge at $225,407 and the $160K for demolishing the bridge could come from the Stabilization Fund.
According to CPC Chairman Bob DeGroot, the request to CPC was "outside the normal application process and they needed to make a compelling argument for it." He said the Greenway Committee pointed to favorable bid pricing and that the town would pay part of the costs. He added that CPC funds would come from Recreation and Historical Accounts.
The Finance Committee, however, did not agree with the timing of the article, and moved to postpone action to Annual Town Meeting because all assumptions that the bridge would have to be bonded disappeared with the lower than expected bids and that a Special Town Meeting should not be used for making appropriations. FinCom Chairman Jay Prager said, "This is not an emergency, this is discretionary, and needs to be considered as part of the overall town budget."
Selectman Peter Cunningham said he was opposed to postponing, because moving the proposal to an Annual Town Meeting could cause the new bids to come in at a higher number. Prager responded, "We always get the story that it will cost more if we delay. There is no guarantee of that. You could ask the Town Manager to ask the bidders if the town could delay until Annual Town Meeting."
With lots of riders, bikers, and hikers in the audience, there would be no delay, and the majority voted to demolish and replace Fitch's Bridge.