Workers from Cold River Bridges finish the work on the Bartonsville Bridge in Rockingham. (Zachary P. Stephens/Brattleboro Reformer)
Workers from Cold River Bridges finish the work on the Bartonsville Bridge in Rockingham. (Zachary P. Stephens/Brattleboro Reformer)
Tuesday January 22, 2013

ROCKINGHAM -- With enthusiasm similar to a bride preparing for an upcoming wedding, the town wants you to save the date.

A ceremony is slated for 11 a.m. on Saturday to celebrate the opening of the brand-new Bartonsville Covered Bridge, nearly a year and a half after it was destroyed when Tropical Storm Irene swept through the state.

Irene left an unflattering legacy in Vermont and the Bartonsville Bridge was among its casualties. Town officials have issued an open invitation to anyone wishing to commemorate an event they feel signifies the state's resilience and fortitude after the historic flooding in August 2011.

Municipal Manager Tim Cullenen said the ceremony will start with a few comments from speakers, followed by a ribbon cutting and a group walk across the new bridge. He said he is not yet sure who the speakers or ribbon cutters will be.

However, Rockingham Selectboard Chairman Tom MacPhee said U.S. Rep. Peter Welch, D-Vt., will attend the ceremony.

Cullenen said the bridge still needs a few final touches, such as permanent guardrails, but those should be installed soon.

The Rockingham Selectboard awarded the construction bid to Cold River Bridges of Walpole, N.H., at a special meeting in June. Project Manager Chad Contaldi said he expects most of the company's roughly 20 employees to attend the ceremony.

He said it was an honor to work on the project, as the original bridge was built in 1870.

"We kind of look at it as a once-in-a-lifetime project," he told the Reformer. "It was great."

According to a document from Cullenen, Cold River Bridges' proposed bid of $1,210,210 was the lowest the town received.

Cold River Bridges owner Jim Hollar told reporters in June that his company was the right one for the job.

"It was probably local-built back then and our company is as local as it gets," he said. "Half of our crew either attended Bellows Falls (Union High School) or lives in Bellows Falls and the rest of them live in Walpole."

Hollar said his company was the contractor that conducted sub-structure installation and worked with designers shortly after Irene struck.

A post-ceremony celebration is scheduled for MacLaomainn's Scottish Pub at 52 South Main St. in Chester. MacPhee said there had been some confusion about why it was being held at the pub, which is owned by his daughter and son-in-law. He said the spot was chosen by the Bartonsville Bridge Committee, a group dedicated to seeing the structure rebuilt, because the pub once let the committee hold a fundraiser there for the project.

He also said it is closer to the bridge than The Square in Bellows Falls.

MacPhee said he drives by the bridge site every two or three days to check on the progress and said it looks great.

"It's unfortunate that we had to lose it to start with," he said. However, he added, "They've done just a super job."

The chairman said a concrete bridge was initially considered, but their lifespan is only about 50 years. He said the new wooden bridge costs about the same amount and should last at least as long as the 140-year-old bridge that was destroyed.

He said it is a relief to have the project nearing completion.

"It's just one more item off the plate we don't have to worry about," he said

MacPhee told the Reformer FEMA is supposed to cover 90 percent of what the town's insurance policy with the Vermont League of Cities and Towns will not take care of and the remaining 10 percent will be evenly split between the state and Rockingham.

Domenic Poli can be reached at dpoli@reformer.com, or 802-254-2311. You can follow him at dpoli_reformer.