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Dunbar Bridge will not be replaced at this time

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Nearby residents voiced their concerns over a plan to replace Dunbar Bridge and the Putnam County Commissioners listened.

No bypass for the bridge will be built at this time.

The commissioners discussed the issue at their Sept. 6 meeting, expressing some misgivings about a plan that would build a new bridge a quarter-mile upstream from Dunbar. The historic covered bridge has spanned Big Walnut Creek northwest of Greencastle since 1880.

At Monday's meeting, the county revisited the issue, and most residents in attendance were opposed to the plan.

Mike McCool of Beam, Longest and Neff Engineering presented the specifications of the project, which would have rerouted the main avenue of travel from the south side of the creek to the north side, with the actual crossing well east of the current bridge.

This would have rerouted the traffic to run along County Road 175 West, currently a dead-end gravel road that runs along the creek's north bank. Several of the residents in attendance live in this area and were none too happy about the increased traffic or the prospect of losing property for the project.

They also expressed doubts about the viability of the project because of flooding concerns and if the project could be completed for the proposed $5 million.

Having listened to their concerns, the commissioners said a new bridge did not have to be built.

"If the people out there don't want it, that's fine with me," commissioner Gene Beck said.

"If you don't want it, we're not going to force it on you," Nancy Fogle added.

Emergency response personnel expressed concerns about the current bridge's viability. Both Jerrett Query of Operation Life and Greencastle Fire Chief Bill Newgent were on hand. Madison Township Fire Chief Lee Price was also in attendance.

With the bridge's current seven-ton weight restriction, neither fire trucks nor ambulances can cross it. Instead they must take the long way around, taking County Road 300 West (Walker Lane) north from West Walnut Street.

"Our response times to your area are very delayed because of this," Newgent said. "We are obviously in support of any type of solution that we can have to improve our response time to that area, but obviously with the respect of the residents in that area."

"A bridge that would reduce the response time would be great," Query said.

Additionally, both county highway officials and the commissioners warned the residents that the covered bridge will not remain in use forever.

"At one point, the bridge may not be fixable," Fogle said.

The other complicating factor for the commissioners was the fact that of $4 million of the $5 million it would have taken to complete the project was federal and state grant money. They are giving the money back with the understanding it may not come back to Putnam County.

Fogle, who represents the district, finally made the motion not to move forward on the project, with the caveat that they try to shift the money to another project in the county.

"I think we just need to move on to something else," Fogle said.

The motion carried 3-0.

In other business, the commissioners:

* Appointed Jerry Williamson the new director of the county Veterans Affairs office. Williamson replaces Will Niebold, who resigned in July.

* Approved the hiring of a temporary part-time employee in the assessor's office and the hire of one full-time and one part-time dispatcher for 911 dispatch. All of the positions are already budgeted.

* Approved the lease of three new vehicles for the sheriff's department. The new agreements replace those of three vehicles whose leases end later this year.

* Approved the sale of a 2004 Ford Explorer from the sheriff's department to the Jefferson Township Fire Department for $1.

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