County officials dive into future of Stone Bridge

Stone Bridge was the topic of much discussion at the June 9 Jones County Supervisor meeting. Before any funding for repairs/replacement can be secured, the project engineer and county engineer need to come together on the proposed plan.

Further deterioration is seen on the face of Stone Bridge following the winter. (Photos by Kim Brooks)
Board of Supervisors
Kim Brooks
Express Editor

     The Jones County Supervisors had a lengthy discussion on the future of Stone Bridge, with multiple parties at the table.

     The conversation took place during the June 9 board meeting. Participating were County Engineer Derek Snead, Historic Preservation Chair Rose Rohr, Mary Rump with ECICOG, Engineer Steve Jacobson with NNW Engineering, and several members of the Jones County Historic Preservation Commission.

     Jacobson reported that the historic bridge, located outside of Monticello, has sustained additional damage from the winter. So the $571,496 cost estimate Rohr shared with the board would likely increase.

     The Commission is working with ECICOG on funding for the project. However, Rohr said to qualify for grant money toward the project, the Commission and ECICOG needs the board of supervisors’ support. (The county owns Stone Bridge. The Commission manages the structure.)

     “It’s your project on a county secondary road,” Rohr said.

     In addition, Rohr said Snead and Jacobson would have to work together to design a project that works for the county.

     Rump explained that the county would be the sponsor of any grant application, and if awarded a grant, the county would sign an agreement with the DOT. The county would also be responsible for a 20 percent match. Rump said that 20 percent could filter down to another entity of the county, like Historic Preservation.

     “All expenses would be paid first and the DOT will reimburse the county at a rate of 80 percent, so someone would have to cash-flow the project,” explained Rump.

     Add to that a 20-year maintenance agreement, also the responsibility of the county. Jacobson said the bridge would be designed to last 50 years or more, so there shouldn’t be much of a financial commitment from the county for 20 years. “It should last quite a while,” he said.

     “There have been instances where this responsibility has been passed down to another local entity,” explained Rump.

     Supervisor Wayne Manternach asked if that 20 percent match had to be monetary. Rump offered, “More than likely. The DOT is stringent on in-kind.”

     Supervisor Jon Zirkelbach said he’d like to see a group come forward to take on the Stone Bridge project, separate from county. He used the new Wapsipinicon Trail Project as an example in which the funding and facilitation were all done by a local, organized group.

     Before anything can be done, Snead asked what the directive of the project entails. He inquired as to whether a project like this is even eligible for TAP (Transportation Alternatives Program) or state bridge funds. Snead explained that TAP funding typically supports trails and preservation, not bridges that carry traffic.

     Rump said she still waiting clarification from the DOT, but believes a project like this, rehabilitating an historic bridge, could be eligible for historic preservation funding.

     “Before we apply for any funding,” she prefaced, “ we need to know what the project is, the cost, and a clear timeline.” She said if the hard cost estimate isn’t realistic, they could sell themselves short when applying for competitive federal funds.

     “You also need to identify how this project is used to benefit the region and the state,” added Rump. “And if the project costs go over, the county would be responsible for anything over the estimated cost.”

     Rohr reminded the board that Stone Bridge isn’t just an historic structure, but also a county road and bridge.

     David Balster, a member of Historic Preservation, said if the intent is to open the road again to traffic with an enhanced two-lane bridge, it would seem reasonable that the county financially contribute toward the project, too.

     “We need to keep in mind that this road is not a major collector roadway,” Snead pointed out. “It’s a local roadway.” That means it would require local funding to help support the project.

     “There’s no federal assistance beyond the touchdown points, beyond the scope of the bridge,” added Snead. “We need to be clear on the scope and what’s going into it.”

     “This is a unique project,” said Rump, noting that it may require multiple sources of funding. “This is not a traditional historic preservation project.”

     With one of the grants due on Oct. 1, 2020, Rump said she was hesitant to apply unless the funding was in order by then. “Construction would have to be underway in that fiscal year,” she warned. “I don’t want to submit an application until there’s adequate funding. And any fundraiser could take 12 to 18 months.”

     Rohr said fundraising was put on hold because of the pandemic, and again mentioned the county investment. “It is a county road,” she said.

     Zirkelbach said there are a lot of historic structures throughout the county that are in need of repairs, all on the pocketbook of Jones County taxpayers.

     “Maybe we need to look at whether we could get by with a cheaper structure,” suggested Zirkelbach.

     Supervisor Joe Oswald said once Stone Bridge Road was re-opened, the new slab bridge could see increased traffic. “That road will become an interstate once it’s re-opened.”

     The board felt the next course of action was to bridge Snead and Jacobson together on site to put together some firm cost estimates on the project. The board said they needed more information before they could offer support at this time.

     Supervisor Ned Rohwedder asked whether Secondary Roads would proceed with a two-lane bridge replacement if they weren’t successful with grant funding. Snead said there is only so much LOT (local option tax) money to go around. And because fewer people were driving on roadways the last several months because of COVID-19, there is less road use tax money.

     “We don’t have the ability to add projects to our five-year plan right now,” Snead said. “We need to strongly look at making what we have last.”


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