During Monday night's meeting of the Texas Township Supervisors, tempers flared as further discussion regarding Willow Avenue Bridge took place.
- During Monday night's meeting of the Texas Township Supervisors, tempers flared as further discussion regarding Willow Avenue Bridge took place.
The supervisors said that engineer Steve Knash gave them a report that stated what needs to be done to obtain an application to start work on replacing the bridge. Chairman Don Doney said the review time is “unknown,” but that the entire process could take between “12 and 18 months.”
“I said before that if we didn't have a time frame, I'd make a motion that we put the jersey barriers in,” said supervisor Rick Southerton.
He said that going off the report “not much more has been done” from what they already know about.
Southerton made a motion to spend the estimated $18,000 on putting jersey barriers on the bridge as a temporary fix.
“We've just been sitting on this,” he said. “We need to do something.”
The motion died for lack of a second.
Neither Doney or supervisor Allan Wickle made a second.
“I've lost my patience with you,” resident Georgette Pascotto said, addressing Doney. “You haven't met about the bridge. You said last fall that you would have a plan by the spring.”
“That's not true,” Doney said. “We've had meetings and decided the bridge is important.”
Southerton backed up that there have been meetings.
“I'm not going to spend $18,000 to appease you,” Doney told Pascotto. “To say we have done nothing isn't true.”
In letters from CECO Associates, Inc., consulting engineers, dated Dec. 16, 2010 and Dec. 15, 2011, said the bridge has the following problems:
“Three (3) Ton” Single Vehicle Weight Restriction Sign defaced with paint and incorrect "Twenty-Seven (27) Ton" Combination Vehicle Weight Restriction Sign currently related to the deficient conditions of the bridge, arc a Critical or (0) maintenance priority.
The remedial repairs and/or corrective action needed on the far abutment and reinforced concrete slab/deck as noted, arc of a High or (1) maintenance priority.
Both letters stated that “The corresponding time frame to correct and/or mitigate this issue is seven (7) days from receipt of this letter,” for the weight signs.
They also stated that the remedial repair conditions “must be addressed within a six (6) month period. Please take the appropriate action(s) to ensure that the structural integrity and safety of the bridge is maintained.”
Neither of these has happened.
“This isn't a cosmetic thing,” said Pascotto. “This is a serious issue.”
During the meeting on May 6, she showed photos and information from the inspection that was done on Dec. 14, 2009. In that inspection report submitted by CECO Associates, Inc., it said that the “overall view of the deck with upstream parapet leaning away from the road. Conditions for a potential collapse of the parapet.”
Stabilizing/repairing the concrete parapets on the bridge and repairing the deterioration on the concrete substructure units were listed under immediate or maintenance needs.
Pascotto stated that “no money has been put into the bridge since 2009 to rectify any of it. It hasn't been retained and that's basically why it's not repairable.”
The discussion continued, which almost escalated into a screaming match. The conversation was getting nowhere. When Pascotto asked what Knash told them, Doney refused to answer. All he said was that the “bottom line” is that it could take “12 to 18 months” for a new bridge.
In a later interview with Southerton, he said that he “doesn't understand” what's going on.
“The bridge has been inspected numerous times and the reports say the bridge is bad,” he said. “It's frustrating that they don't feel the need to do what the reports say.”
Southerton added that he knows it's “a lot of money,” but that something “needs to be done.”
“I thought that someone would second the motion so we could get something done,” he said. “I'm shocked that didn't happen. I don't want to get into a fight, but something needs to be done with the bridge one way or another.”
Southerton said that the report from Knash lists what they need to do, but that it “doesn't say” what has “already been done” in the last nine months.
“If someone gets hurt then that puts the township in a bad position,” Southerton stated. “It's a safety issue that has to be dealt with by either closing it or making it a one way.”
He also mentioned that money isn't the issue. He said that the supervisors are “no longer” on the medical insurance. Southerton said he believes the budget had that insurance for “$36,000” total for all three of them.
“It's not like we don't have the money,” he said. “If we can save $36,000 a year, we can do $18,000 for barriers. The $18,000 is also an estimate from the engineer (Knash) so it could also be less. That money is better spent doing something like this.”
He said that he wanted someone to “commit to a timeline” for replacing the bridge.
“They're talking 12-18 months to replace the bridge, but that's too long to leave the bridge in the condition it's in,” Southerton stated. “From my experience, at the very least it will take 18 months, maybe more.”
He said he can see why Doney and Wickle don't want to spend the $18,000 because it only covers the signs and barriers, but emphasizes that it's “too long a time frame not to do anything.”
He also said he's “not sure” if the public even cares because he “doesn't see” many comments about it. He added that maybe the public “doesn't understand” what's going on.
In a later interview with Doney, he said that the barriers would make it a one lane bridge to “get seven more years” out of it, but adds that it's “already one lane.”
“There are three stop signs around that bridge,” he said. “One is going from Walmart to the Halfway House, where you stop right after the bridge, one is by Swamp Brook Road and the other is on Route 6 next to the bridge. All vehicles are stopped before they go across it. Nobody is going to go 40, 50 miles per hour over the bridge.”
Doney said that the report from Knash lists what they need to do before he can apply for a permit. He added that once a permit is obtained, he'll try to get Rep. Mike Piefer and Sen. Lisa Baker to “expedite it.”
“If we spend $18,000 on something that's already a one lane bridge, it'll be a waste of taxpayer money,” he said. “The report doesn't suggest it should be shut down or that it's in danger of collapsing.”
He said that he's been supervisor for “seven years” and that they've been “patching the bridge” that long. He said they can't replace the parapets because they “are leaning.”
“The easy thing would be to spend the money to appease one person and I'm not going to do that,” he said.
Doney added that they were told to work toward replacing the bridge “when funds become available.” He also said that when replaced, it won't be a bridge, but a “box culvert.”
“We could have applied for state funding to do it, where the state would pay 80 percent and the township would pay 20 percent,” Doney stated. “But it would take a minimum of three years and that's if we were even approved for the funding.”
He said it would take at least a year before finding out if they were approved.
He said they did sculling on the bridge and that stones were put in last fall. Knash said it would cost a “minimum of $40,000” to repair the parapets and said that it “isn't worth” the cost.
“Accidents can happen anywhere, but there's a lot lower chance one will happen on that bridge because of the stop signs,” Doney said. “ The bridge has to and will be replaced.”
He also added that “no one” has told him that the bridge is a “safety issue.”
“It's a waste of money,” said Wickle. “It's putting more weight on the bridge than necessary.”
He said that the report they got said that the bridge is “perfectly fine until its “three ton” weight limit. He added that nobody's gone over and “using common sense” the bridge is all right.
“To do the barriers you have to attach guard rails and put signs up and probably flashing lights to say it's one lane,” Wickle stated. “The engineer did what he had to do and we got the surveying done.”
He said that the bridge is “vital” for emergency responders and that closing it would make their trip longer.
“It's not cost effective to get the barriers,” he said. “It's a lot of unnecessary expense.”
• Resident Ed Thomas said that he has already mowed his lawn “four or five times” this year and that some of his neighbors “haven't done it at all.” He was told to the office and file a complaint. Doney said that according to the township ordinance, grass can't exceed eight inches.
• Supervisor Allan Wickle said that clean up day was “a success.” He said there were “three full containers” and that they had “great help.” He added that they went over Willow Avenue Bridge and “no one was injured or died.”
• The concrete work is complete on the flood control project in White Mills.
• The flood plane ordinance was brought up and Southerton said the “only reason” he voted for it was because of the loan element and what residents could lose if it wasn't passed.
“It wasn't handled well at all,” he said. “It's not right how they shoved it down our throats. It could've been handled a lot better.”
He said that after going back and forth for a year, they received the revised maps “the night of” voting to pass the ordinance and that someone was supposed to be at the meeting to explain more and they “didn't show up.”