Forum, Nov. 27: New Hampshire must keep its promise on Westboro Rail Yard

Published: 11/26/2020 10:00:11 PM
Modified: 11/26/2020 10:00:04 PM
New Hampshire must keep its promise on Westboro Rail Yard

Lebanon’s state representatives, city councilors and its city manager worked hard last year to secure an appropriation in the state budget to fund the demolition of the Westboro Rail Yard buildings. In an unusual collaboration, Lebanon offered an in-kind contribution valued at more than $250,000 toward the project on land owned, and neglected for decades, by the state of New Hampshire.

While the state’s budget was passed in June and work was to begin later in the summer, it shows no sign of going forward. We are told that appropriations are on “indefinite hold,” with no further explanation. We are in the dark as to what that means and whether the state will ever keep its promise to our city.

Many West Lebanon residents came together to plan for the revitalization of downtown West Lebanon, and the rail yard remediation was to have been the cornerstone of that effort.

While we understand that nothing proceeds normally in 2020, Gov. Chris Sununu confidently stated at the opening of this year’s budget hearings that, despite the COVID-19 pandemic, the state is in a “far better position than envisioned last spring.”

Let’s be clear about why the Westboro buildings need to go. They pose multiple public health hazards, including collapse, fire and ongoing pollution of the Connecticut River and its shoreline. They prevent West Lebanon from realizing its potential, acting as deterrents to new businesses and residents who could contribute to the city’s tax base. They violate legal requirements that building owners adhere to safety codes.

Over the next few months, budget negotiations will progress and spending will be fixed for the coming year. The Lebanon delegation will continue to pressure the governor to keep his promise to our city.

We urge all concerned residents to do the same. It is long past time for New Hampshire to do the right thing. The governor and the Department of Transportation must stop kicking the can down the road and address the Westboro problem once and for all and allow us to bring our historic downtown back to life.



The writers are members of the New Hampshire House representing the Grafton 13 district.

Chance to give the gift of life

I would like to take this opportunity to invite all blood donors to Tracy Hall in Norwich on Dec. 10, from noon-6 p.m.

The blood drive is part of the 19 Days of Norwich celebration. It is dedicated to my son, Daniel Somerville. Daniel was 14 when he was diagnosed with cancer. He received many blood transfusions, which gave him and our family more time and improved the quality of his life. Dan lost his battle on Dec. 2,1993, at the age of 15.

Since 1996, this drive has collected more than 4,700 pints of life-saving blood. We truly appreciate all the donors who have participated over the past 25 years. Many of you have given at most of the drives.

Donors can make appointments by logging onto or by calling 1-800-733-2767.

We know there are many organizations worthy of your time and money, especially now. Please remember, money cannot buy blood. It can only come from dedicated volunteers willing to give their time to give the gift of life. There is always a need, and it can, and does, save lives.

Thank you for your support in honoring the Norwich community and Daniel’s memory at this time.

We are thankful that Dan’s life continues to make a difference, even though he is in heaven.



Debt will cause US bankruptcy

When President Bill Clinton left office in 2000, the U.S. had a budget surplus of $63 billion and the national debt was about $5.6 trillion. In 2020, we have a budget deficit of $3.1 trillion and national debt of over $27 trillion.

We have 13 aircraft carriers, each with a crew of more than 5,000. What do they do all day?

How many hundreds of U.S. ships are at sea? How much did we pay for them? What do they do all day? Same with the thousands of aircraft.

What happens when Communist China refuses to loan us any more money? Then they demand we pay back all we borrowed? The U.S. will go bankrupt.



Turning Vermont’s teachers into detectives is a mistake

Vermont Gov. Phil Scott’s directive requiring teachers to ask students where they spent their Thanksgiving holiday is not only a dumb idea, it is cruel.

I’m sure he intended to put an additional kibosh on large family gatherings in order to slow the spread of COVID-19. But this directive will force some children to lie and make all teachers detectives. If the governor wants to know where a kid spent Thanksgiving, he should figure out how to ask the parents, not the kids. And no, he should not have teachers interrogate parents, either.

Teachers try very hard to respect the privacy of students and their families. This attempt to turn them into detectives is a mistake.



Our human connections are a victim of COVID-19

As I write this, more than 250,000 Americans have died from COVID-19. But that number doesn’t account for the elderly people who have died because of the lack of care, touch and human connection that COVID-19 has made impossible.

My parents, 97 and 93, have been in assisted living in New Hampshire for the past 2½ years. Both are in terrible, fragile condition, quarantined in their small apartment without being allowed visitors most of the time. Each landed in the hospital for an extended period without being able to see each other or communicate at all (they don’t use email and lack hearing).

I could drive by periodically and wave from 20 feet away, which feels much sadder than anything. During the warm months and the lower numbers, I could visit them outside, wearing masks, from 6 feet away, but was still not allowed to touch them. So the only touch they had was from their caregivers, mostly for personal care, not tenderness.

We lost my mom two days shy of her 94th birthday (not from COVID-19). Because I held durable power of attorney, they let me be with her. But because I’d come from out-of-state, I almost couldn’t. My dad was allowed, but required a 24-hour caregiver himself. And only three people were allowed to visit per day. It was complicated. But we’re still lucky compared with the thousands of people dying alone, without being visited or touched.

I want group living facilities to figure out how residents can safely have visitors and hugs. I want more empathy in this country. Maybe you don’t care about getting sick or making your family sick. But if you’re not wearing a mask, physically distancing, staying home most of the time and washing your hands like you’re going into surgery, you’re prolonging this pandemic for everyone else. And every sick person has a whole community of people who need them, love them and will miss them.

We can save lives if we do things together. I’ll do it for you. You do it for me.



Step up and see the show

President Donald Trump continues to present his “greatest shows on Earth,” with outrageous admission prices.


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