States should honor their agreements
Editor of the Reformer:
I am writing today as it has been almost 22 years since the signing of the Memorandum of Agreement on Newport by New Hampshire and Vermont department heads. This agreement protected the interests and the livelihoods of two states — New Hampshire and Vermont. This agreement has not been honored. I understand the purpose of quid pro quo, although New Hampshire received full value for this exchange, Vermont has not and is suffering due to its lack.
The vitality of our small village has been severely weakened since the closing of the Vilas Bridge, now seven years past. The charm and strength of a Vermont village lies in its ability to attract and, for a short time, capture the commuter, the visitor from another state, the traveler looking for a destination. Bellows Falls merchants rely on the daily flow of traffic off this bridge. We are unable to return to our pre-2008 level of commerce as the only other accessible New Hampshire bridge, the New Arch Bridge, lends itself as an easy exit heading north, bypassing the village altogether. In addition, that bridge is now overburdened with a weight load it was not originally designed for and itself will soon enough be in need of repair.
Understand this is not all about Vermont, the New Hampshire side stands to lose as well from lack of duty to maintain the Vilas Bridge. We in Bellows Falls treasure this bridge as a vital connection to New Hampshire, but we also bear the burden of supporting the wastewater system for Walpole New Hampshire. Further erosion of the Vilas Bridge will surely cost the residents of Walpole in the future. In addition, it has been recently learned that the bridge carries FairPoint communication lines as well for that community. In truth, what other secrets does the Vilas Bridge hold as it continues to degrade past the point of repair?
Will you not seriously consider this bridge, one of the Seven to Save, in need of restoration as was agreed in 1994 by your predecessors? These two states cooperate in so many other ways, why not in this? The revitalization of the Bellows Falls commercial district and the infrastructure of Walpole NH resources ride on this past agreement which promised continued unity between our two states. Vermont governments, both local and legislative, have asked for serious grounded discussions to build a future where the Vilas Bridge does not pass into obscurity as has the Kelleyville Bridge.
Will you ignore the agreement? Will you wait until the bridge crumbles into the Connecticut River and the sewer line and the phone lines with it?
Deborah Wright, Bellows Falls, April 13