City gets second grant for snowmelt project, will seek bids for skate park

By Barbara Tetreault

BERLIN — The city has been awarded a second grant to pay for a feasibility study on a downtown snowmelt system. City Manager James Wheeler said he expects the city will issue a request for qualifications next month to start the process of hiring an engineering firm to do the study.

The city council also authorized Wheeler to move ahead with designing the city’s new skate park. The city recently received a $75,000 Tillotson grant to fund half the cost of the skate park.

Wheeler informed the city council Monday night that Berlin’s application for a $30,000 federal Rural Business Development Grant for the downtown snow melt study has been approved. Last fall, the city applied for and received a $12,500 Community Development Block Grant Feasibility Study grant through the N.H. Community Development Finance Authority.

The two grants will provide the city with sufficient money to hire the technical assistance needed to design a system to heat streets and sidewalks in downtown Berlin during winter months.

The city hopes to have the feasibility study completed by the end of the year. Based on the study’s finding, the city will consider applying for a federal Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant to fund the project. The TIGER program focuses on projects that are innovative, improve safety and generate economic development.

The city believes a snowmelt system would make the downtown more attractive to shoppers and customers. It cites the example of Holland, Mich., which has seen its downtown thrive after putting in a hydronic snow and ice melting system back in 1988.

The Berlin study will look at two options for heating the water that would flow through tubing laid underneath the pavement. One would use the waste stream generated by Burgess BioPower’s 75-watt municipal plant. The other option would be to construct a municipal biomass plant.

With $150,000 identified in funding for the skate park, Wheeler asked the council for permission to forego the usual bid process and issue a request for design/build services. He explained that it would still be a competitive bid process but the city would be seeking a firm that would both design and construct the skate park. Wheeler noted there are firms that specialize in developing skate parks.

Councilor Mike Rozek asked if the city has an expert to evaluate the designs. Wheeler said staff will review the qualifications of the various bidders and check references.

Public Works Director Michael Perreault said the city has already community input in the design of the skate park. A volunteer group working with the city has conducted a survey asking stakeholders what they wanted to see in a skate park. Eight specific features were identified: rails, a half pipe, bowl, bank, quarter pipe, pyramid, stairs and ledge. There was also agreement that the park will be located at Community Field.

In addition to the $75,000, the city has set aside $50,000 in capital improvement funds, and will provide $25,000 in site work.

The council authorized Wheeler to proceed.

The city had an old skate park at Community Field that was part of the property sold to Eversource for a new substation. The city received $400,000 for the property, which also contained two building the city used for storage.

The city of Nashua is just completing a new skate park there that is expected to cost around $500,000. According to a story in the Nashua Telegraph, the park occupies a space about 175 feet long and 130 feet wide. The park is being built by Artisan Skateparks of Kitty Hawk, N.C.