Supervisors look to make final decision on Stone Bridge

Kim Brooks
Express Editor

     With action listed on the April 11 Jones County Board of Supervisor agenda concerning Stone Bridge, the board decided to postpone formal action. A final decision will be made during the April 18 board meeting.

     During the April 11 meeting, the board, again, met with County Engineer Derek Snead concerning the condition and possible courses of action. Beth Porter and Linda Mardorf were also present for the meeting, wanting to see where the supervisors landed on the future of Stone Bridge.

     Snead said after routine checks on the bridge, there has been no change in the condition of the structure.

     Supervisor Ned Rowedder informed the rest of the board that the Historic Preservation Commission is wondering what the county plans to do with the bridge because the Commission would like to apply for grant opportunities. If the county doesn’t see a need to repair/replace the bridge, the Commission will cease seeking funding opportunities.

     “Fundraising is on hold until we make a decision,” Rohwedder said.

     He explained the Commission would like to apply for a $19,000 grant for a design for repairs on the bridge.

     “It’s foolish to raise money without a purpose,” said Supervisor Joe Oswald.

     “They can’t (raise money) without the authority of the owner (of the bridge),” added Supervisor Lloyd Eaken, “which is us (the county).” Eaken, who also met with the Commission, said they are confident they could raise all of the funds necessary “to do what needs to be done to the bridge.

     “It doesn’t look like we’ll need to commit any funds to the project,” he said.

     Oswald shared his thoughts on the future of Stone Bridge, saying he is in favor of saving it, but not using Secondary Road funds to do so.

     In terms of what the $19,000 would produce, Rohwedder said it would give concept and preliminary designs. Snead questioned why the Commission needed to find a way to pay for those documents when his office already possesses that information.

     “We have all of documents and specifications in our office,” he said. “It’s already done. The grant would essentially give us all of the information we already have.”

     After a lot of talk, Supervisor Wayne Manternach felt he was in a place to make a decision, though the rest of the board was up in the air.

     “It’s time to decide what we’re going to do,” voiced Manternach. “I’m comfortable with the information I have, throwing out my solution today.”

     Eaken said the Commission needs to decision before the end of the month when the grant has to be submitted.

     “The main decision is whether or not we are all in favor of saving the bridge,” said Oswald.

     Snead asked the board what saving the bridge meant to each supervisor.

     “Do you just want to prolong its life expectancy until we replace it?” asked Snead. “Do you want to keep putting money into it for the rest of time? The repair costs will increase over time. Nothing in this world lasts forever.”

     Supervisor Jon Zirkelbach also proposed if the county chose to save the bridge, would it be taxpayer dollars used in that endeavor.

     Eaken asked whether the county could sell Stone Bridge to another party. Snead said it’s rare, but the county has done that in the past.

     “That way the final decision is not ours,” suggested Eaken of the sale of the bridge.

     However, Snead said Stone Bridge Road would have to close because the county cannot have a public roadway over the private structure if the county no longer owned the bridge.

     Manternach suggested taking Stone Bridge off the county’s road system, replacing it with a new bridge/structure, and using some of the original stone façade as an aesthetic feature on the new structure.

     “This would commemorate the length of service and history of the bridge, and keep the road open with a new bridge,” he said. “Or close the road and turn it into a park.” Manternach said he’s heard from more and more people that they wish to see the road remain open for emergency purposes.

     “This option shows a very good effort from the board to keep an eye on safety, economics and history,” added Manternach. “It’s the best for the taxpayers of Jones County.”

     Rohwedder said he didn’t think it was fiscally responsible for the county to build a new bridge on a roadway that has a relatively low traffic count.

     “We try the best we can not to have a single-lane structure on a paved road,” said Snead, “much less any road on our system.”

     Porter questioned the traffic count. Snead said his office worked with the DOT to conduct the count June 23-29, 2016.

     Mardorf said if the county decides to do anything to Stone Bridge, they have to go through the Preservation Commission and the state because the bridge is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.



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