DIXFIELD – Community spirit between Dixfield and Mexico and years of effort united on a blustery Saturday with the opening of the $350,000 Thaddeus White Bridge over Webb River at the end of Coburn Avenue. The bridge connects Dixfield to Mexico.

Idling on the Mexico side in a 1923 Model T Ford truck were Gary S. DeRoehn and his 81-year-old mother, Jeannette (Arsenault) DeRoehn, both of Mexico.

Parked on the Dixfield side in a 1925 Model T touring car were Carthage Town Manager Steve Brown and passenger Eva Sassi Taylor, 99, Dixfield’s 2008 Boston Post Cane recipient.

Both vehicles commemorated the historical aspect of the original bridge, which is believed to have been built in the horse-and-buggy era of the 19th or early 20th centuries, according to Dixfield Historical Society historian Peter R. Stowell in Saturday’s program.

In 1935, flooding washed the span away. Later that year, it was rebuilt and is jointly owned by both towns.

By Oct. 2007, however, the deteriorating bridge’s weight limit was reduced to three tons. Emergency and commercial fuel delivery trucks could no longer reach two homes on the Mexico side. Something had to be done.

Through the winter of 2007-08, Mexico officials helped get fuel delivered to Bill and Bunny Arnold and Pete Shippen, who were landlocked between private landowners and Webb River due to the bridge situation.

This spring, Mexico got a 90-ton galvanized steel truss bridge when a Massachusetts town chose not to buy it.

Then, the Legislature increased the cost of license plates from $25 to $35, putting the extra money toward building Maine bridges.

That enabled the Maine Department of Transportation to agree to fund $150,000 of the $300,000 project to remove the old bridge and install the new span. Mexico and Dixfield picked up the other half, jointly agreeing to pay $75,000 each.

Following short speeches on Saturday by Mexico and Dixfield town managers John E. Madigan Jr., and Eugene R. Skibitsky, and Mexico and Dixfield historical society presidents Connie Tutliss and Clarice Hodges, Mexico and Dixfield Selectmen Chairmen Barbara Laramee and Bettina M. Martin cut the ribbon across the bridge.

Antique car drivers Gary DeRoehn and Brown then inched onto the span, stopping side-by-side in the center, cementing the neighborhoods-bridging effort with an impromptu handshake, arms outstretched through door windows.

Afterward, Skibitsky and Madigan said they were pleased by the “tremendous turnout” and unique ceremony.

“I think everything was great,” Skibitsky said. “I was pleased to have the older citizens commemorate this. A huge thanks goes to Steve Brown and Gary for their cars.”

“I think this is fantastic,” Madigan said. “It was a great turnout. I’m delighted that so many people came down to see this. … When something’s meant to happen, it always amazes me how everything comes together at the right moment.”

Bill Arnold and Pete Shippen couldn’t agree more.

“For me, this is an outstanding illustration of what can be accomplished by regionalizing towns,” Arnold said. “When you share resources, it lets you get so many more things done. This bridge also justifies my faith in John Madigan and David Errington.”

Errington, the code enforcement officer for both towns, and Madigan, who in 2005 helmed both towns, have worked tirelessly on the bridge project, which opens miles of the Back Kingdom Road area for future development should the land come up for sale. It also helps a hay farmer get to and from his crop and revives access to the area for recreational use.

Most importantly, Shippen said, it changes an old Maine adage.

“You can get there from here now,” he said, stressing the “can.”


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