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Do you fix a bridge if it’s not really broken? How can you be sure it’s not really broken? At the Warren Select Board meeting that took place on July 24, the debate once again turned towards the impending reconstruction of a bridge on Plunkton Road, which may or may not have been compromised due to increased traffic on the road after flooding from Tropical Storm Irene shut down sections of Route 100 last August.
Now, “what we have is a damaged bridge that’s not high enough for the water flow,” select board chair Andy Cunningham stated matter-of-factly, but Warren resident Lenord Robinson argued that the bridge is fine.
“I’ve been an excavator in construction all my life,” Robinson spoke up at the meeting. “I think [the bridge] is going to last longer than me, and I’m going to live to be at least 100,” he said.
While engineers have signed off on the bridge’s replacement, “engineers are not always right,” board member Bob Ackland said in support of Robinson’s stance. In the end, the town should make its decision based on “common sense,” Ackland said. “If the bridge can last another 30 years….”
But timing was perhaps the key factor in the board’s ultimate decision to approve the bridge’s reconstruction—because the town acted preemptively, 95 percent of the project’s $438,382 price tag will be covered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
If the board decided to hold off on reconstruction and it turned out the bridge had to be replaced within the next 30 years, taxpayers shelling out hundreds of thousands of dollars might wonder why the town didn’t take federal aid when they had the chance.
Instead, with the FEMA money, “We have the opportunity to invest in infrastructure that will be solid,” board member Anson Montgomery said, even after Robinson made one last appeal against the project and against paying for it with federal funds.
“Our country is bankrupt,” Robinson said, “and we don’t need the money.”
While they heard Robinson’s point, the board acted in what they believed to be the town’s best interest and moved to accept the contractor DuBois & King’s bid for the project. After a lengthy approval process, construction is slated to begin almost immediately on August 6.
In other town news, the board authorized the use of up to $10,000 to purchase a hydroseeder, which they hope will help replant grass to control erosion on banks that have proved impervious to the traditional planting process of using hay and seed. Problem areas that the town is hoping that hydroseeding will help improve include the ditch at the bottom of Cider Hill Road as well as the ditches on Roxbury Gap Road.
Hydroseeding, a planting process in which a liquidized mixture of seed and mulch is sprayed over prepared ground, is more effective because the seeds get a jump-start on the growing process before they’re exposed to the elements.
Hydroseeders are also more cost-effective, as they require minimal operation and maintenance costs, and “versus renting, [the machine] would pay for itself in three years,” Warren road foreman Raemon Weston said.
Compared to the prolonged Plunkton Road bridge debate, purchasing the hyrdoseeder seemed like a “no-brainer,” according to board member Matt Groom.