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$7 million worth of improvements to Main Street/Route 16 in Berlin celebrated during ceremony

Union Leader Correspondent

May 13. 2018 7:25PM
Berlin Mayor Paul Grenier and David Walker, the manager of the Burgess BioPower plant, react on Friday, seconds after they cut a ceremonial red ribbon to mark the completion of a $7 million road infrastructure project that improved a large section of Main Street/Route 16. Looking on are Berlin City Councilor Diana Nelson, and behind her, District 1 Executive Councilor Joe Kenney. (JOHN KOZIOL/Union Leader Correspondent)

BERLIN — The City That Trees Built recently celebrated the completion of a $7 million infrastructure project that made a big chunk of upper Main Street, also known as New Hampshire Route 16, not only better but more beautiful.

From about a half-mile north of City Hall, at Success Street to the 12th Street Bridge, crews installed a new stormwater drain system and rebuilt the entire road, adding granite curbing, masonry brick pavers and street trees, while from the bridge to Cates Hill Road, the old road surface was removed to enhance drainage and eliminate potholes.

Additionally, a concrete sidewalk with masonry brick pavers and granite curbing was installed on the west side of the road.

The improvements, which were designed by HEB Engineers of North Conway and executed by Sargent Construction of Stillwater, Maine, which was the general contractor, make the busy and vital Main Street/Route 16 easier to navigate and more inviting for both locals and visitors.

That fact was noted by speakers several times during a ribbon-cutting ceremony Friday at Service Credit Union Heritage Park, which sits between Route 16 in the west and the Androscoggin River in the east.

The speakers, among them Berlin Mayor Paul Grenier and District 1 Executive Councilor Joe Kenney, also said the project would have been impossible without a payment-in-lieu-of taxes (PILOT) agreement that Berlin has with Burgess BioPower.

Eight years before the 20-year PILOT went into effect in 2011, Berlin had looked at doing the Main Street/Route 16 project but didn’t pursue it due to lack of funds. That situation changed in 2013, when the city, using the PILOT money, was able to obtain a $5.5 million bond, which, when added to an existing $1.5 million bond, paid for the project in full.

The importance of Burgess BioPower toward making the project happen was evident when Grenier was joined at the ribbon-cutting by David Walker, who is the plant’s manager.

Burgess BioPower generates 75 megawatts of electricity by burning wood chips. The plant employs 27 people.

However, the Power Purchase Agreement between Burgess BioPower and Eversource has been criticized, including by the Business and Industry Association of New Hampshire.

While the power from Burgess is “renewable” and thus helps Eversource meet the state’s “25 x ‘25 Renewable Energy Initiative” whose goal is to have New Hampshire obtain a quarter of its energy from “clean, renewable sources by the year 2025,” the cost of its electricity has sometimes been above the open-market rate, with the increase being borne by consumers.

The ribbon-cutting for the Main Street/Route 16 project was “a great day in the City of Berlin,” he said, noting that Berlin is rapidly becoming the ATV capital of the East Coast.

Kenney praised Berlin officials for being creative in funding the Main Street/Route 16 project, adding that Berlin has seen good times and bad times and that he saw for it “great opportunity in the future.”

Jay Poulin, president of HEB Engineers, thanked Eversource for helping the project relocate overhead powerlines, saying the work was done in about five months, which is “unheard of.”

Berlin Transportation Local and County Government

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