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Pettengill Road infrastructure bank faces a setback in Londonderry

LONDONDERRY — Despite new federal laws mandating which projects may be funded through a proposed state infrastructure bank, State Sen. Sharon Carson, R-Londonderry, is still hoping things will take a turn in favor of the long-awaited Pettengill Road project.

During a public forum discussing the $13 million proposed development held earlier this summer, Carson announced she was working toward legislation that would result in the creation of a state economic development bank where state dollars are matched with federal money.

The idea is for communities seeking to develop large areas for future economic expansion would have the option of borrowing the funds they need from the state’s economic development bank, at low interest rates and shorter terms, Carson said.

But last week, while attending a legislative subcommittee meeting, Carson was told by state Department of Transportation officials that the rules governing infrastructure banks had recently shifted.

“Basically, the federal government is now telling us that infrastructure banks receiving federal monies can only be used for federally-approved projects, not municipal ones,” Carson said Tuesday afternoon.

Though discouraged by the latest developments, Carson said she’s still working toward putting the infrastructure bank in place, in hopes that the laws might eventually change.

U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte, who contacted Carson early this week, vowed to support legislation at a federal level in hopes of bringing the option back to the table, while Gov. Maggie Hassan also voiced support for the project during an appearance in Londonderry last month.

“More than anything, I think we have reached a time where there’s a rolling consensus on this,” Hassan said, noting the importance of working together toward a common goal.

Despite the unexpected setback, Carson said she’s looking ahead.

“Hopefully we can work toward introducing a new bill that would change the current statute,” Carson said. “Sometimes you have to take two steps forward and two steps back.”

In the meantime, Londonderry town officials are keeping all their options open.

“We’re grateful for Senator Carson’s efforts,” Londonderry Town Manager Kevin Smith said Tuesday afternoon. “We do feel (the infrastructure bank) is an innovative idea — one that’s definitely worth pursuing at state level should the legislation change.”

In June, the town of Londonderry submitted an application for an $8.2 million Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery grant that, if approved, would fully fund the construction of the proposed roadway, to be located off the Airport Access Road.

Smith said the town has yet to hear word on its grant status, but town officials would continue to think outside the box when it comes to bringing the project to fruition.

“Right now we’re exploring every avenue we can to make sure this road gets built,” Smith said.

Once completed, the commercial and industrial development along Pettengill Road could bring an estimated 10,000 new jobs to southern New Hampshire and generate millions of dollars in annual tax revenues.

At least one major company has already approached the town with clear intentions of building on the 1,000-acre site adjacent to the Airport Access Road, town officials have confirmed, and a recent fiscal study of the project’s long-term implications have suggested that the development of Pettengill Road “would basically pay for itself,” according to Russ Thibeault, president of Economic and Real Estate Advisory Service.

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