Commissioners address mowing at county covered bridges

Tuesday, June 8, 2021
Overgrown grass climbs higher than the timber guardrail approach to Houck Covered Bridge as well as those on the modern bypass bridge built several years ago. The Putnam County Commissioners addressed the lack of mowing around the county’s nine covered bridges on Monday, hiring a lawncare service to maintain them for the rest of the year.
Banner Graphic/JARED JERNAGAN

Addressing what one Commissioner dubbed “Grass Debacle 2021,” the tall grass and weeds around Putnam County covered bridges will soon be tamed.

Commissioner President Rick Woodall admitted Monday that he had not previously put a lot of thought into how the county took care of grass maintenance around the nine covered bridges in its care.

A combination of the Putnam County Sheriff’s Office road crew and the Putnam County Highway Department simply took care of it.

That has changed in 2021.

“This year, nobody’s doing it,” Woodall said.

A quick drive past Houck Covered Bridge on County Road 550 South in Washington Township early this week confirmed this, as the grass between the historic bridge and the modern bypass bridge installed several years ago had clearly been untouched for the season.

However, it’s a problem to varying degrees at all of the county’s nine covered bridges.

Both the Putnam County Highway Department and Putnam County Sheriff’s Office cited a lack of manpower to take care of the mowing.

Sheriff Scott Stockton said without the money the county formerly received for housing Department of Correction inmates, the county now only has one road crew supervisor, who is part time with maxed-out hours

Stockton mentioned that the Putnam County Convention and Visitors Bureau had previously had a line item for mowing around the bridges, but this is no longer the case.

Woodall said he had talked to CVB Director Eric Freeman who said that, yes, the CVB markets those bridges, but does not own them. The line item has been eliminated in recent years.

As such, Freeman and Woodall called around for quotes to first knock down the tall grass, then keep the grass maintained for the rest of 2021 at all of the bridges.

Newgent Lawncare Service of Greencastle submitted a quote of $4,285, which includes the initial cleanup and then mowing every other week through late October.

Green Street Maintenance of Fillmore submitted a bid of $11,500 to do the initial cleanup and then monthly maintenance through October.

After talking to his board, Freeman told Woodall that, assuming the county went with the low bid from Newgent, if the county would pay $3,000, the CVB would pay the remaining $1,285.

At this point in the discussion, Woodall asked if there was a chance of finding the money to hire another part-time road crew supervisor and have inmates do the mowing.

“There’s no way the sheriff’s department can hire another supervisor for that kind of money,” Commissioner Dave Berry responded.

Rather than talk much longer, fellow Commissioner Tom Helmer said something should be done soon.

“Being that it’s June already, I think we need to take care of it,” Helmer said.

Woodall made the motion to hire Newgent Lawncare for the job. All three commissioners gave their approval.

The money will come from the highway department covered bridge fund.

Further down the road, other solutions may be possible. County Council President Dave Fuhrman, in the audience on Monday, floated the idea of an “adopt-a-bridge” program through which businesses or organizations might care for the grounds surrounding one of the nine bridges.

Additionally, it was noted that the county is in the planning stages of starting a park board, which would oversee such matters.

While the county does not own any parks, as such, the idea of a board has been discussed in recent months since the county took possession of the People Pathways system in the county.

Management of the pathways has transferred to the CVB, but the county is formally the owner.

In looking for ways to fund further pathways or improve those in existence, the county and CVB could seek funds from the Indiana Department of Natural Resources. However, such DNR funds are only available to entities with an established park board.

A park board would consist of appointments by the Putnam County Commissioners, Putnam County Council and county judges.

Freeman plans to appear before the County Council at its monthly meeting on Tuesday, June 15 to discuss the matter further.

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  • Back when Jim Smith was in charge of the County Highway Dept. the county road side ditches were mowed. Heck some of the side ditches grass levels are as tall as my car..when you have to pull off if you meet farm machinery you pray you can get out safely! Bring back the mowing crew! Maybe our elected commissioners need to drive more county roads; notably NORTHERN PART OF THE COUNTY.

    -- Posted by mom67 on Tue, Jun 8, 2021, at 6:30 PM
  • Yes List

    Sponsors

    Service groups

    Adopt a Bridge

    No List

    Taxes

    -- Posted by direstraits on Tue, Jun 8, 2021, at 10:28 PM
  • If the county wants to reap the benefit of being in "Covered Bridge Country" - it needs to help maintain their appearance and asthetics. Otherwise, they need to stop using them to attract visitors because nobody needs to see them in the state they are in.

    -- Posted by infiremanemt on Wed, Jun 9, 2021, at 9:01 AM
  • Is this only for houck bridge? Sounds steep if it is for one bridge. And why only one. Are the other ones being taken care of by surrounding homeowners?

    -- Posted by Keepyaguessin on Wed, Jun 9, 2021, at 9:05 AM
    Response by Jared Jernagan, Editor, Greencastle Banner-Graphic:
    It is for all covered bridges, but Houck was the most notable example. I'll clarify that in the story.
  • The weeds at Dunbar bridge are very tall !!

    -- Posted by Rainbow6 on Wed, Jun 9, 2021, at 9:56 AM
  • The whole county is a mess from various factors. Manhattan Road ditches and drains have still not been repaired from the cable company that came in and laid all of the new wires. Not to mention the large piles of dirt that have just been left in peoples yards. Cable company responsibility? County responsibility? Who knows? Both have been contacted. It's just a mess. We have tried to contact the County Hwy Dept, but they haven't done anything. The newest County Commissioner is trying, but doesn't seem to be getting any support from any of his fellow commissioners or the County Hwy Dept. Would just like for everything to be cleaned up and cleared out so the water from the rain flows into the proper places, not our yards and basements and dangerous puddles left on the road!

    -- Posted by lduggan69 on Wed, Jun 9, 2021, at 1:46 PM
  • Absolutely ridiculous the county highway cannot handle this with existing manpower and equipment. Frankly, same for the sheriff’s office. Taxpayer screwed again.

    -- Posted by Avenger1234 on Wed, Jun 9, 2021, at 6:34 PM
  • One of the poorest quality roads in the county is 231 through Greencastle. Anybody notice, or are we supposed to be quiet about this and pretend we don't notice? How much longer will it be allowed to deteriorate? I guess we will find out soon enough or not.

    -- Posted by Prince of Stardust Hills on Wed, Jun 9, 2021, at 9:48 PM
  • Very comforting that one of the solutions suggested is to create another bureaurcracy. When do we ever come to the conclusion that larger government does not result in more efficient use of the taxpayers money?

    -- Posted by rawinger on Thu, Jun 10, 2021, at 5:29 AM
  • Perhaps if Mike took more initiative to do his job than kiss commissioners butts, then he could actually see he has at least three people he could pull daily and mow, weed eat around these places. Jacob is number one employee who does absolutley nothing for the county, other than stealing time...

    Who keeps track of the roads they bypass to get up by their houses to get those roads fixed first? Happens every year...

    How many YEARS after it was approved that yes, the need is present, locates are called in for a job, then they decide it isn't a priority?

    My neighbor has waited for over three years (2 years of locates being called in, verified by Mike and Jacob) and still nothing... guess we don't kiss enough butts to get anything done.

    -- Posted by fedUPtaxpayer2 on Thu, Jun 10, 2021, at 2:07 PM
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