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11-12-2014

Mayor yet to acquire
bridge repair estimate

Officials seem fixated on building new one

by Valerie Verkamp
Landmark assistant editor

Even after city officials were told the 104-foot wooden bridge on Houston Lake would last up to another 20 years if properly maintained, it appears the maintenance of the bridge has been put on the back burner, at least for now.

On Monday, city officials still could not provide an estimate of what it would cost to make repairs suggested by a state bridge inspector. This comes a month after city officials told residents they would have the information by the next city board meeting.

During a city council meeting on Oct. 13, Nick Jackalone, president of the Houston Lake Homeowners Association, asked city officials how much it would cost to replace the rotten boards and split runners. Mayor Michael Hallauer said, “I don't know. I will have an estimate next month.”

Thirty days later, city officials have failed to obtain a cost estimate of the necessary repairs suggested by a state bridge inspector.

Greg Sager, Platte County director of public works, told city officials on Sept. 8, “Based upon its condition and the average wear and tear it gets on a daily basis, (the structure is likely to last another) 10-20 years. As long as you keep up with the maintenance, it should last a long time.”

In a later interview with The Landmark, Sager said he leaned toward the bridge lasting another 20 years with proper maintenance. This week, Sager said he stands behind his earlier comment and still believes that to be the case.

The bridge inspector recommended replacing a few rotten boards and split runners to extend the life of the bridge. The inspector also suggested reducing the speed across the one-lane bridge.

But it was apparent at Monday’s meeting that rather than making those necessary repairs, city officials continue to be fixated upon a new bridge.

“There is funding for a brand new bridge available through the county, so we are looking into that,” said Mayor Hallauer. “Either that or spending our own money fixing what we have.”

But city officials still have no idea how much it would cost to replace the wood rot. A number of residents present at Monday’s meeting have begun scrutinizing city officials' spending decisions and priorities.

Kerry Hallowell, a longtime resident, said “I thought it was deemed our bridge was in good shape?”

In response, Hallauer continued to discuss the maintenance aspects of the bridge, which were not being disputed.

“The bridge needs some work,” replied Hallauer. “All the wood needs replaced.”

Hallowell asked city officials if the bridge suffered wood rot because it was wasn't properly sealed.

“No,” said Hallauer. “The bottom timbers on the deck were replaced in 1995. They are getting to a point where they won't hold a nail or spike.”

Hallauer said an engineer from the county is going to take a look at the bridge and provide the city a more complete interpretation of the costs associated with construction of a new bridge and repairs to the current wooden structure.

On Tuesday in a telephone interview with The Landmark, Sager confirmed he would be at Houston Lake Monday, Oct. 17 to offer his knowledge and expertise. Sager said he will be reaching out to several local engineers to get a better idea on whether it is possible to replace the wooden structure at a significantly lower cost than originally thought.

In other news, city officials approved the lowest bid to paint the interior of city hall including the wall paneling, ceiling, and stairwell. The project was awarded to LNH Painting at a cost of $2,800, who bid the project $5,200 less than About Time General Contracting.