Bridge repairs span most of meeting
by Margo Avakian
Oct 04, 2012 | 910 views | 0 0 comments | 7 7 recommendations | email to a friend | print
HALIFAX- The bulk of Tuesday’s regular selectboard meeting was devoted to updates on four bridge projects, Deer Park Road, Hale Road, and Reed Hill bridges, all casualties of Tropical Storm Irene, and the design for bridge #37 on Old County North Road.

The board has spent several months discussing various options for the Old County North Road bridge with Holden Engineering, the firm chosen to do the design. Those options include an all-timber bridge, a bridge built with either galvanized or weathered steel beams, and a choice of timber or precast concrete for the deck. Purchasing agent Joseph Tamburrino recommended against the all-timber bridge, which is the most expensive option and would require frequent maintenance with a preservative containing diesel fuel, a contaminant. The board ultimately voted to go with a timber deck on galvanized steel beams, the cheapest of the options. Board member Edee Edwards said that her personal preference would be weathered steel, as it is longer-lasting, but it was she who moved to go with the cheaper galvanized beams.

Construction of the Deer Park Road bridge is being held up by a bureaucratic snafu. The bridge must meet standards set by the Agency of Natural Resources, but FEMA funding is based on replacing as closely as possible the destroyed bridge, with improvements limited to standards set by VTrans. The FEMA-approved design did not take changes in the banks into account, and would be seven feet shorter than the ANR-approved bridge. As board member Earl Holtz noted, the board would prefer to build a bridge that “gets to the other side.” Also, the board has decided to go with a concrete deck for this bridge.

The difference in cost is not huge, about $20,000, and the board indicated they would be willing to risk having to cover that in order to get the bridge built by winter rather than waiting until mid-June to begin work. But there is a risk that if construction is started without formal approval of the changes, FEMA could withdraw approval of the whole project. That would leave the town liable for about a half-million dollars in costs.

Project manager Christina Moore told the board, “In order to pull all funding, FEMA would have to prove that the town doesn’t own the bridge, or that Irene didn’t destroy the bridge, or that a native American burial ground is located there.” But a letter from state official Ben Rose indicated that there is some risk of losing the funding. Moore felt the board would be safe in pressing ahead, but Edwards did not. “I’m uncomfortable about pushing forward on it,” Edwards said, even if the risk is very slight.

The town still has 90 days before it must formally award the contract to low bidder Cold River Bridges. After that, the firm could withdraw its bid. The firm bid low on the project in hopes of providing work into the winter for its crew. After much discussion, the board chose to wait a little longer while pressing for a decision from FEMA, which has already had the change-of-scope request in its hands for three months.

Board chair Lewis Sumner said that completion of the Reed Hill Road bridge is waiting on the precast concrete deck. The town has not been given a date for delivery of the deck sections.

There was no substantial news on the Hale Road bridge project, but just as the board thought they were done with bridges for the evening, Nicholas Bartenhagen brought up a problem related to a small bridge on Josh Road. That bridge is now posted for 6,000 pounds, by order of the state, but a property owner has driven a massive excavator across it. The owner did not apply to the town for a $10 excess weight permit. This sparked a lively discussion on jurisdictions, authority, responsibility, and sheer practicality.

Weight limits on bridges are set by state law, not local ordinance, but the town has some responsibility for enforcing the limits. In the past, the town could direct its constable to issue a ticket to the offender, but new state certification requirements have severely restricted the authority of constables without extensive police training. The board voted to take the only action it can in this case, to send a letter informing the excavator’s owner that he must obtain a permit, and that he will be liable for any damage his equipment does to the bridge.

Holtz gave the board an update on the Pennel Hill beaver problem. “I’ve been trying to contact the fish and wildlife department” for advice, Holtz said. He will also petition the ANR (through the transportation board) for assistance and consult with “a private citizen with some knowledge of beaver conservation issues.” No progress yet, but Holtz will continue to beaver away at the problem. Edwards shared some information on water flow “calming devices,” which apparently have only a 3% failure rate, as opposed to an 80% failure rate with trapping and transporting.

In other business, board members decided to get documentation from constable Len Derby and town clerk Patricia Dow on efforts they have made to get dog owners to obtain licenses. If someone is bitten by an unvaccinated, unlicensed animal, the town and the selectboard could be held liable for damages. “It’s reaching the point,” Edwards said, “where impoundment is necessary.”

The board also voted to award the contract for the town’s radio repeater system to R&R Communications, the low bidder at $3,070.45.
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