Can a little country bridge built by a farmer a half century ago really cost nearly a half million dollars to repair?
That’s exactly the case, according to the borough manager and council.
Sylvia Hughes, a borough resident for 55 years, asked council members at their July 17 meeting what their plans are to repair a bridge on Reservoir Road between West Center Hill Road and state Route 118. The bridge was damaged during a major storm two years ago and is impassable.
“I don’t think we need the Brooklyn Bridge, but it would be nice to have access to that road. It’s very inconvenient. It can’t be that bad of a project, can it? Have we ever gotten a bid on how much it would cost?” Hughes said.
Council President Lee Eckert said the borough has an estimate for repairs and “it’s staggering. We just don’t have the money.”
Borough Manager Tracey Carr said the borough engineer estimated the cost at $350,000 to $400,000. It’s so high because, for one thing, the bridge crosses a Class A wild trout stream. Streams with this designation and their associated wetlands are entitled to greater regulatory protection. The need to have a crane brought also adds to the cost and overhead power lines further complicate the job.
Hughes said she heard that there are grants available from the Mohegan Sun Casino and suggested offering to name the bridge after the casino if it paid for the repair.
“Could we have a little contest and name the bridge after them or something? Is there nothing we can do? Must we settle for the rest of our lives to have that bridge unrepaired?” Hughes said.
Carr explained that the state taxes gaming revenues from the Mohegan Sun and other casinos and those gaming funds are awarded as grants to municipalities by the Commonwealth Financing Authority. The casinos have no say in how the grants are awarded, and there is a lot of competition for the grants.
Carr said the borough has been awarded a $1.34 million grant towards the downtown revitalization project and, partnered with five other municipalities in the Back Mountain Community Partnership, was awarded $200,000 for emergency management vehicles.
“I don’t know how well a single bridge in a single municipality on a road that’s not very traveled, how well that would be seen competitively. We’ve been trying for other things that affect more of the municipality.”
Mayor Timothy Carroll said he also would like to use the road, noting he lives nearby at the end of Machell Avenue.
“To me, I just accept the fact you can’t go that way anymore. There are so many things this town needs. Our roads are falling apart, they need paving, we need money for that,” Carroll said, adding that the bridge is low on his priority list.
Hughes said she would be back next year to ask again.
In other business, council voted unanimously to:
• Advertise for a part-time police officer. Carr said patrol hours are not increasing; she just wants to have a full pool of available officers.
• Promote Frank Kus to road department supervisor, a position that had not been filled for many years. His hourly rate will increase to $19.
• Pay Campbell Business Machines $4,191 for a new HP LaserJet Enterprise copier/printer for the administrative office.
• Authorize Quad3 Group to solicit proposals for a back-up generator for the municipal building.
• Reappointed H. Clark Lewis to represent the borough on the Back Mountain Area Uniform Construction Code Board of Appeals.
• Amend the Disability Leave Policy to allow coverage of people who already have coverage through another job. This would allow volunteer firefighters to receive disability coverage under the borough’s policy if they were injured in the line of duty.
Borough council will have a special meeting for general and bidding purposes at 7 p.m. Aug. 7 in the municipal building, 25 Main St., Dallas. Council also will meet at 7 p.m. Aug. 19 and 21.