Snead, Postel continue Stone Bridge discussion

Board of Supervisors
Kim Brooks
Express Editor

     County Engineer Derek Snead and Assistant Engineer Todd Postel discussed the future of Ely’s Stone Bridge with the Jones County Supervisors during their April 4 meeting. (Supervisor Joe Oswald was absent.)

     Postel took a moment during the meeting to address comments that were made during the March 28 evening supervisor meeting regarding Snead’s qualifications.

     “County engineers are hardwired a certain way,” he said. “Safety is a big concern, and we’re fortunate to have Derek in Jones County.”

     Postel said Snead has worked under two prominent county senior engineers before moving up the ranks.

     “He’s overseen nearly $11 million in projects and improvements to infrastructure,” added Postel. “Most of his emphasis has been on bridges, so hats off to him for being innovative in his approach to safety in this county.

     “Derek is stamped and sealed as far as expertise in the field. He’s been on our staff a long time.”

     Postel said Snead’s level of expertise has come up quite a bit throughout the Stone Bridge discussions.

     “You have an expert here already in Jones County,” he said.

     Supervisor Wayne Manternach said he has questioned what other counties in Iowa do concerning historical structures, so he reached out to all 99 county engineer departments, hearing back from roughly 30 of them. He said his inquiries dealt with historic bridges, safety concerns, and single-lane bridges on hard-surface roadways.

     “In our office, economics and safety are the two biggest factors,” Snead said about taking on a project. “At all costs, we try to eliminate situations like a single-lane bridge on a paved road.”

     Manternach responded, “Not too many counties have hard surface roads that lead to a single-lane bridge.” He said that the grade of Stone Bridge Road is also a concern, leading north down to the bridge itself, especially in the winter.

     “Can we really ask Jones County taxpayers to keep it on our system?” asked Manternach.

     Snead said the majority of people who have spoken out simply want the roadway to remain open to traffic.

     “The last 40-60 years,” said Postel, “we’ve spent taxpayer money on that structure. Some repairs were documented; some were not. I see us (Secondary Roads) doing more repairs no matter how we approach this. The reality is, it’s a very old structure. It is what it is.”

     Postel acknowledged the board’s difficult decision ahead of them.

     “There is an awful lot of people in favor of keeping the bridge,” said Supervisor Lloyd Eaken. “They don’t want to see it torn down.” Eaken said if the county continues to own Stone Bridge, taxpayer money would keep going toward repairs year after year.

     “I don’t know the answer yet,” he said.

     “We need to make a commitment one way or another,” voiced Manternach. “We’re holding many people and groups in limbo, including the taxpayers. I know where I stand now.”

     Supervisor Jon Zirkelbach said the board is also holding things up with the Engineer’s Office/Secondary Roads, if they need to pursue the project or not.

     “The first step would be to decide if we fix it or not,” said Snead.

     Supervisor Ned Rohwedder said some of the people involved in saving the bridge have been pursuing grant opportunities. “What is that money for?” he asked.

     Manternach said as a county-owned bridge, any funds collected to support the structure should go to the county. “Everybody needs to be on the same page because it all comes before and under this board,” he said.

     Eaken asked if a new bridge could be built next to Stone Bridge. Snead explained the biggest factor would be cost and safety.

     “We don’t want to make a poor safety situation even worse with alignment and a new structure,” he said. “It would take a lot more grading from the beginning of the road on down. “Based on past grading and bridge projects, Snead estimated a new structure to cost around $1.2 million.

     “This would be a very large-scale project,” he said. “You’d be building a new road.”

     Rohwedder at the present time, he would be inclined to close the bridge versus spending that amount of money.

     “What is the dollar figure in your mind that you’d be comfortable with spending taxpayer money?” Snead asked of the board. No hard figure was given.

     Eaken said if the bridge were closed, would Stone Bridge Road still be accessible by emergency responders. Snead said they already take either D-62 to the south or Hardscrabble Road to the north.

     If the bridge were taken off the Secondary Road system, Snead said it would make no sense to continue to spend his department’s money on the structure.

     The Stone Bridge discussion will continue during the April 11 board meeting.


Subscriber Login