U.S. Rep. Todd Rokita (R-Indiana) has written a letter of support to the Putnam County Commissioners, encouraging them to pursue the rehabilitation of the bridge through National Historic Covered Bridge Preservation (NHCBP) funding.
Rokita's special assistant Michael Day delivered the letter to Monday's commissioners meeting.
"The rehabilitation of the Dunbar Covered Bridge is of great importance to the surrounding community for both its historical worth and its significance as an economic-generating attraction," Rokita wrote.
Dunbar has been the topic of much discussion in 2011. In August, a semi driver, misled by his GPS, wandered down the wrong county road and drove through the bridge, causing cosmetic damage to both ends.
In the fall, the county considered plans to bypass the 131-year-old bridge with a modern replacement to its east on Big Walnut Creek. After hearing the objections of nearby residents, the commissioners scrapped the idea.
With federal money available that could help with the bridge's rehabilitation, the county's intentions are in line with Rokita's.
"We're trying to get the funding," Commissioner Gene Beck said. "It's just something where we're trying to get the help to do that."
Estimated costs for rehabilitating the bridge are $1,061,000, with the county requesting $756,000 in grant money. This would leave the county to pay the remaining $305,000.
Work to the bridge would include extensive structural work as well as cleaning and repainting of the bridge, replacing its roof, replacing all vertical siding to match existing, restoring the original design of portals and constructing new asphalt approaches.
The work will also include application of flame retardants, insecticides and fungicides to prevent damage to the bridge.
Putnam County has already had some success with NHCBP grants, procuring a $980,000 grant for the rehabilitation of Baker's Camp Covered Bridge earlier this year. Work on that bridge is slated for 2013 and 2014.
Applications for this round of NHCBP grants are due in January, and the Putnam County Highway Department has the application prepared for submission.
Besides Rokita, others lending their support to the proposal include Greencastle Mayor Sue Murray, State Rep. Jim Baird (R-Greencastle) and the Putnam County Convention and Visitor Bureau.