U of Colorado backs out of Stone Bridge project

Gates have now been installed on the north end of Ely’s Stone Bridge in Monticello to allow pedestrians and bicyclists to pass through. (Photo by Kim Brooks)
Board of Supervisors
Kim Brooks
Express Editor

     Ely’s Stone Bridge is now passable, by pedestrians and bicyclists only.

     Late last week, Secondary Roads employees installed gates purchased by the Jones County Historic Preservation Commission. The gates were installed on the north end of the bridge.

     During the July 25 Jones County Board of Supervisor meeting, Rose Rohr with the Historic Preservation Commission was present to update the board on some unfortunate news regarding the bridge project.

     Rohr presented a letter to the board, dated April 17, 2017, from Kevin Rens, the structural engineer from the University of Colorado who was on site in March to study Stone Bridge. Rens’ team from the University intended to put together a structural analysis of the bridge and offer solutions as to how the bridge could be rehabilitated, maintaining its historical value and look.

     The letter read: “Based on the continued negative published and unpublished rhetoric from the local government agency regarding the University of Colorado’s involvement in the rehabilitation of Ely Stone Arch Bridge, I regret to inform you that I feel it is in the best interest of my research team to withdraw official participation.

     “The hostile political climate and the local agency’s refusal and outright rejection to engage in teamwork is unbearable and intolerable…”

     Rohr told the supervisors that her delay in informing them about the letter was her hopes of convincing Colorado to remain a part of the project.

     “I went back and forth with them to rescind the letter,” she said. “It went on for several weeks, and then their decision was made and they’re not coming back.”

     Rohr said the financial impact of that decision is above and beyond $50,000 to the county, for the in-kind work the University has done to date concerning Stone Bridge.

     “The bottom line is people are upset,” explained Rohr of residents wanting to use the bridge and wanting to see something done.

     “The county engineer declined their (Colorado’s) offer,” she said, referring to the lack of teamwork mentioned in Rens’ letter.

     “It hurts this project,” added Rohr.

     She said on top of the lost in-kind time and effort, Rens’ team also assisted in grant writing.

     “This is a tremendous hit for us and the county,” Rohr said.

     She said the Commission, with the help of local groups assisting in raising money, they still plan to rehabilitate Stone Bridge.

     “We’ll still do the project,” she said, “but obviously it’ll take longer.”

     Rohr also said people are leery of donating money, though she didn’t give reasons for the trepidation.

     “We can’t hire an historical structural engineer or contractor until we have the money,” she said. On top of that, the Commission wants to “fix” the water drainage issue on the bridge before winter.

     “We could lose more façade and it’ll become more expensive,” she said.

     Rohr said this is a community-driven project, something “the Commission can’t do alone.

     “We thought this would be a two to three-year project, now we’re fearful. We’re just trying to get this bridge fixed,” she concluded. “Right now we’re at a stalemate.”

     The board questioned the timeliness of the letter, dated in April, and why they were just being notified of the matter.

     “We never issued any negative rhetoric,” commented Supervisor Ned Rohwedder.

     “Four months later,” said Supervisor Wayne Manternach, “there’s nothing we can do about it. It’s a two-way street as far as providing information of what’s going on out there.”

     Rohwedder said if the board were notified sooner, “we could have at least responded and provided positive support.”

     Supervisor Jon Zirkelbach reminded everyone that the vote to save Stone Bridge was 4-1. “Why did that support feeling go away?” he asked in reference to Rens’ letter.

     In the future, the board asked Rohr to keep them informed and updated on anything regarding Stone Bridge.


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