PELHAM -- U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) met with town officials in Pelham on Monday to discuss her legislation, the "Strengthen and Fortify Existing Bridges Act of 2014" (or SAFE Bridges Act), which aims to provide $5.5 billion to fix deteriorating town and state bridges nationwide, including 493 such town- and state-owned bridges in New Hampshire.
Hosting Shaheen for the roundtable talk in the Town Hall auditorium were Selectmen William McDevitt, Hal Lynde and Chairman Ed Gleason and Town Administrator Brian McCarthy. They were joined by Town Planner Jeff Gowan, Fire Chief James Midgley, the state Department of Transportation's Deputy Commissioner Patrick McKenna, and state Rep. Charlene Takesian.
"In this country, we've got about 11 percent of our bridges that are either structurally deficient or functionally obsolete; in New Hampshire we've got about one-third that are deficient or obsolete," Shaheen, a former three-term governor (1997-2003) of New Hampshire, told the Pelham panel. "So this is a real challenge the country is facing, and is particularly a challenge we're facing in New Hampshire."
If the SAFE Bridges legislation is passed by Congress, McCarthy said two Pelham bridges on New Hampshire's so-called "Red List" would likely be eligible for some of New Hampshire's estimated $13 estimated share of the SAFE Bridges Act: The Willow Street Bridge, and the historic Abbott Bridge.
"I imagine any federal funding we get for those two bridges would require some sort of matching funds from the town, but any help we can get is better than nothing," McCarthy said. "When these bridges close due to flooding or for other reasons, it creates absolute chaos and becomes a real safety hazard. It impacts us significantly."
Before departing, Shaheen accepted an invitation from town officials to tour Pelham's new $3.9 million fire station on the Village Green.
She also took a Sun reporter's request for her statement on Market Basket.
"I certainly hope they can reach an agreement. Clearly, the employees feel very strongly that they want to see Arthur T. (Demoulas) back. So, hopefully, they can find a settlement that's good for the employees, good for the company, and good for the consumers because shoppers have backed the employees as well," Shaheen said.
The senator stopped short of taking a side in Market Basket's ongoing feud between Arthur T. and his supporters and his cousin, Arthur S. Demoulas' side of the family.
"We're not involved in this fight one way or the other, but certainly I'd like to see it resolved in such a way that's good for the company and good for the employees," Shaheen said.
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