(Banner Graphic/JARED JERNAGAN) [Order this photo]
Work on the new Bridge 146, the replacement to the Houck Iron Bridge, should be completed within the week, reopening the crossing for the first time since 2007, the Putnam County Commissioners learned Monday.
Following completion of construction work by Duncan Robertson Contractors, only a walkthrough by local and state officials remains for the bridge.
(Banner Graphic/JARED JERNAGAN)
After some brief closures for high water earlier in the decade, the old iron truss bridge was closed permanently in April 2007.
Once the county secured federal aid money to replace the bridge, the old structure, constructed in 1905, was cut from its abutments and moved, in a single piece, to the bank in December 2011. It was then taken apart and shipped to the Wabash and Erie Canal Society in Delphi.
The closure has continued throughout 2012 for construction of the new bridge.
When the new bridge opens to traffic, it is likely to see a traffic increase within a couple of years. Crowe's Bridge (Bridge 137) on County Road 125 East will be close for replacement in late 2014 and is likely to stay closed through most of 2015.
A much smaller bridge is causing even more consternation for officials. Bridge 240, a small, concrete bridge on County Road 800 North, is having more trouble with its weight-limit signs.
The signs have previously been stolen from off their posts or taken posts and all. Highway officials estimate the trouble has happened a dozen times.
This time the thieves have become vandals, as the weight limits are simply spray-painted over.
Officials speculate the trouble is being caused by someone who is inconvenienced by the three-ton weight limit, but are at a loss for how to deal with the problem.
Closure of the bridge has been discussed, but no action taken.
In other business:
* School bus turnarounds were again discussed. One local school corporation is unhappy with the commissioners' recent decision not to fund the construction of school bus turnarounds. Commissioners voted recently to continue hauling the rock for the schools, but to no longer pay for the material.
The chief problem the commissioners had with the old arrangement was the sometimes arbitrary and possibly wasteful locations for turnarounds.
"I know quite a few of them that could go a 10th of a mile and turn around on a road instead of a driveway," commissioner Gene Beck said.
In the end, it came down to a cash-strapped county making cuts.
"We have to make cuts and that's where we've made cuts," commissioner Kristina Alexander said.
* Pending county council approval, the commissioners approved a $20,000 plan to enclose the sheriff's department's automobile impound area.
The vehicles previously sat in the open, but under the plan the area will be fenced in and graveled. The impounded cars will sit on the south part of county property that contains the Emergency Operations Center and the Putnam County Highway Department.
The enclosed area will provide much-needed security.
"For a while these cars were involved in cases and it probably wasn't a good idea to have them out in the open," County Attorney Scott Hoff said.
Hoff also said the expenditure will likely be paid off by the sale of several of the impounded vehicles no longer involved in active cases.
Although final approval and a funding source will be decided by the county council, the County General Fund was suggested, as a new county speeding ordinance means the sheriff's department has provided a new cash stream to the fund.