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County says no to bridge plan

By Staff | Jul 12, 2010

John McDonald

A group of Faribault County landowners were not happy with the design of a proposed bridge on County Highway 16 near Brush Creek, east of the Bricelyn corner.

Several residents spoke at last Tuesday’s County Commissioners meeting, saying the waterway under the bridge would be smaller than the current one, causing water to back up and flood their fields.

The County Board agreed and pulled the plug on the project at the last minute.

County Engineer John McDonald was at the meeting to ask the board to accept the low bid for the project, which actually included replacing two bridges – the one near Brush Creek and another one west of Elmore.

McDonald said the low bid came from a Hutchinson firm, Structural Specialties, at $677,510.

“This is 13 percent under the engineer’s estimate of $778,297,” McDonald says. “We will be saving just over $100,000.”

A motion by Commissioner John Roper, seconded by Commissioner Tom Loveall, to accept the low bid, failed to pass when they were the only two to vote yes.

A second motion, this time to reject all bids and have a new engineering plan drawn up for the County Highway 16 bridge, passed 3-2, with Roper and Loveall voting no.

McDonald told the board that the engineering of the bridge had been done by Erickson Engineering and had cost $22,000. He says a new engineering plan could cost the county that much again.

Plus, he says, the county could lose the cost savings of $100,000 on the recent bid for the two bridges. McDonald says those savings involved putting the two bridge projects into one bid.

“We will now have to re-bid both of the bridge projects,” he says. It was unclear if they would be bid as a single project again, or bid separately.

McDonald also told the board that it will take several weeks for the new engineering plan to be prepared, then at least three more weeks for the bidding process to take place.

“This means we would be pushing construction into harvest time for this bridge work, and we have not done that in the past,” he says. “I think this will delay these two bridges into next year.”

That news did not make Commissioner Roper very happy.

“We have promised these people in my district that this bridge (the one near Elmore) would be done this year,” he says. “I think we need to see how to get it done this construction season.”

The board agreed to rebid just the Elmore area bridge.

The group of county citizens had filled the board room and led off the meeting with their concerns about the design of the bridge.

McDonald says that despite the fact that the river bed under the bridge will be 27-feet wide instead of the current 40-feet, the waterway will be sloped further back at the upper levels, in a trapezoid shape.

“The volume of water that can pass under the bridge will remain the same,” McDonald told both the board members and the landowners.

The citizens questioned the dimensions of the new bridge, as well as the placement of support pilings, which they say could become clogged with trees and other debris, causing more flooding.

They also wanted to know why it was necessary to replace the bridge at all.

McDonald says it was his determination that the bridge was above 35 percent deficient and needed to be replaced. Plus, the highway plan calls for repaving that portion of County Highway 16 in 2011.

“We don’t want to repave the highway without doing the bridge replacement first,” he says.

Commissioner Tom Warmka says he has been contacted by persons who live downstream as well as those people from upstream who were at Tuesday’s meeting.

Warmka says the landowners downstream don’t want the bridge waterway any larger, because they don’t want any additional water coming their way and causing flooding in their fields, either.

“I think we need to rebuild this bridge exactly as it is now,” Warmka says, and asked McDonald if that could be done.

The engineer responded that anything can be done if you spend enough money.

“It might have to include concrete bridge embankments, which would increase the cost dramatically,” McDonald explained. He added that the current bridge is a single span, while the new plan calls for a three span bridge.

“Going back to a single span will raise the cost, and also cause us to have to raise the grade of the road,” he says.

Commissioner Bill Groskreutz says he couldn’t vote for the proposed plan if it was going to cause flooding for the adjacent landowners.

“I have to vote to protect my constituents,” he says.