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Column: City should ‘play by the book’ on Westboro

  • Rymes Propane & Oil in West Lebanon, N.H., on Dec. 21, 2017.The company is considering burying propane tanks at the Westboro Rail Yard, in an effort to alleviate safety concerns at the West Lebanon site. Representatives with the company announced they would be exploring that option during a meeting with city and state officials last week, according to city officials who were present. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • A Rymes Propane and Oil propane truck is parked in the Westboro Rail Yard on Tuesday, June 27, 2017, as seen from a parking lot off Route 12A. Rymes uses part of the rail yard as a depot. The Lebanon Area Chamber of Commerce wants the state-owned rail facility, which it called an "eyesore," to be cleaned up. (Valley News - Jovelle Tamayo) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.



For the Valley News
Wednesday, April 17, 2019

West Lebanon

I am the owner of the former West Lebanon Library building and the former Westboro ticket office, both historic structures in West Lebanon that I worked hard to save using private funds with no local, state or federal subsidies.

Since the New Hampshire Department of Transportation wants to play by the book regarding giant propane tanks in downtown West Lebanon, perhaps the city of Lebanon should do the same.

I suggest the city install Jersey barriers on the property line between the former West Lebanon Library and Railroad Avenue at Main Street. This action will eliminate the right turn lane and half of the center lane at this intersection, reducing the intersection to one incoming and one outgoing lane at the signal, which is adequate for the existing traffic flow.

Next, the Lebanon Police Department should ticket any Rymes Propane & Oil tractor-trailer if it crosses the center line of Railroad Avenue. Or if it blocks traffic on Main Street turning right onto Railroad Avenue. Or if it blocks Advance Transit buses turning onto Main Street from the other side of the intersection. Or if it blocks traffic headed north and south on Main Street until cars reverse up Main Street at the signal so the tanker can make the turn.

This entirely legal policing action would perhaps cause the New Hampshire Department of Transportation and Rymes to realize that other taxpayers have rights, too — especially since the adjacent fire station is impacted negatively by the current situation.

The arrogance of the New Hampshire Department of Transportation’s Railroad Division is legendary and all one has to do to confirm that is to inspect the condition of the former Westboro Railroad Yard. Every administration in Concord for the past 25 years has allowed this blighted condition to continue, resulting in the loss of historic buildings and the continued degradation of downtown West Lebanon. By continuing to promote low-end industrial uses in the area, the state has effectively hamstrung local efforts to revitalize West Lebanon.

Perhaps the real reason the Railroad Division is determined to lease the site for uses that penalize other property owners and taxpayers should be exposed: If the Department of Transportation leases the space — instead of promoting the sale of the property for a higher use — the revenue stays in the department and perpetuates the cushy jobs there. If the property is sold, the revenue goes into the general fund of the state.

This blatant abuse of authority should be investigated, especially since recent reports suggest the Department of Transportation is willing to enter into a 20-year lease with Rymes, thereby ensuring that West Lebanon will continue to struggle.

I urge Lebanon public officials, at all levels of government, to take these necessary steps to promote the interests of the other property owners and taxpayers in West Lebanon.

Until the New Hampshire Department of Transportation and Rymes negotiate with the city in good faith and with full transparency, it is time for the city of Lebanon to “play by the book” to promote an alternative agenda — one that puts the public interest ahead of private interests.

David Clem, of West Lebanon, is the owner and principal of Lyme Properties.