September 30, 2010

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News in brief

• Widening I-93 is a go: Gov. John Lynch and state Department of Transportation Commissioner George Campbell announced the state has received final approval from the Federal Highway Administration to continue rebuilding and widening the 19.8-mile stretch of Interstate 93 between Salem and Manchester. “Interstate 93 is a critical piece of New Hampshire’s transportation infrastructure, and we have already begun significant work in widening the highway to meet today’s demands,” Lynch said. “The widening of I-93 is a top priority of mine, and it is essential that we continue with the progress we have made in order to improve safety and expand opportunities for economic development and jobs.” The federal approval upholds a 2005 decision that concluded the four-lane alternative best balances the need to provide safe and efficient transportation with social, economic and natural environment concerns, according to a state press release. A lawsuit by the Conservation Law Foundation had questioned widening the highway to four lanes each way. Along with widening the highway in each direction, the project entails improvements to five interchanges and local roads and replaces 19 red-list bridges. The state finished work at Exit 5 earlier this year. The project, slated for completion in 2020, also entails rebuilding the 50-year-old highway. As of last fall, the project was about $260 million underfunded. Visit rebuildingi93.com.

• Liquor Commission woes wind down: The saga at the Liquor Commission appears to be over after the Executive Council voted earlier this week to reprimand Commissioner Mark Bodi and demote him from his post as chairman, but also to let him keep his job. Bodi had faced possible removal for interfering with an investigation into a bar in Keene that had over-served a patron. After the state’s Liquor Enforcement Division seized video surveillance equipment at the bar during its search last year, state Rep. Daniel Eaton, who is the House Democrat Majority Floor Leader, called Bodi. Bodi claimed Eaton pressured him to return the surveillance equipment, which Bodi did after officers procured the evidence they needed. Bodi did not have the authority to order the equipment returned and state prosecutors attempted to paint him as failing in the face of political pressure. According to reports, Bodi was slated to be back at work this past Tuesday. The state GOP is now calling for an investigation by the Legislative Ethics Committee into Eaton’s actions.

• Home sales decreased: After nine consecutive months of increases, New Hampshire saw its second straight drop in unit sales of residential homes last month. Also, the state’s median home price fell by 3 percent, according to the New Hampshire Association of Realtors. Last month saw 981 home sales, compared to 1,113 in August 2009, and the median price fell from $222,000 in August 2009 to $216,000 last month. Cumulative home sales for 2010 stood at 1,804 through August, 4.3 percent ahead of the same period last year. NHAR President Monika McGillicuddy suggested there had been a lag following the expiration of the home buyer tax credit.

“Naturally, we’re not thrilled to see the decreases over the last two months, but we’re not completely surprised,” McGillicuddy said. “We’re also not ready to call it a trend, just as we weren’t calling it a trend last November when we saw a one-month 70-percent increase in sales.” She said sales data reflecting closed sales tends to lag behind activity, so August sales are likely indicative of a slow period of market activity in June. Other realtors have been encouraged by the recent activity, McGillicuddy said, adding that realtors don’t have a true picture of where the market is because of the tax credit.

• Pond clean-ups: The fall edition of the Manchester Urban Ponds Restoration Program and Parks Clean-ups is set to kick off. On Saturday, Oct. 2, volunteers will meet at Blodget Park near Front Street to clean up the park and Black Brook from 9 to 11 a.m. The following Saturday, volunteers will head to Stevens Pond Park at Bridge Street Extension to clean up from 9 to 11 a.m. On Saturday, Oct. 16, clean-up crews will take to Nutts Pond and Precourt Park on Driving Park Road between 9 a.m. and noon. Since 2000 the program has organized 79 clean-up events and nearly 417 volunteers have spent more than 1,500 hours collecting more than 1,425 bags of trash, which does not include illegally dumped shopping carts, tires, car batteries and other large items. Latex gloves and trash bags will be provided. Organizers ask that participants bring a friend. Visit www.manchesternh.gov/urbanponds. Send e-mail to urbanponds@gmail.com.

• RiverWalk in Nashua: Great American Downtown announced recently that construction of the “library” portion of the Nashua RiverWalk has begun. The project kicked off last week. In the coming weeks, construction crews will install a seating area and a walkway down to the lower RiverWalk. A second stairway is also on the way, according to a Great American Downtown press release. The project has been three years in the making and is a collaborative effort of the mayor, Great American Downtown, Community Development and private organizations. Work is expected to be completed by the first week in November. Visit www.downtownnashua.org. Call 883-5700.