Any and all corrections to the following minutes will be made at the 07/19/01 Board of Selectmen's Meeting and are considered unapproved until then. Corrections will be noted in the minutes of that meeting.
The Special Meeting was called to order at 3:03 p.m. by Chairman Mike Rohan.
Chairman M. Rohan indicated that the town has been working with the state, in particular Roger Whitcomb of VAOT, on a new-covered bridge to replace the existing-covered bridge in Williamsville. The proposal is for the current bridge to be dismantled and moved to another location. There has been $50,000 allocated to dismantle the bridge. Even though the Board has discussed various options for the use or relocation of the current historic structure, the Historic Bridge Committee was asked to attend this meeting to discuss viable options that may be available for a new location and use of the current bridge.
Robert McCullough, Historic Bridge Program, presented a document, prepared by the committee, entitled Historic Covered Bridge Preservation Plan to be used as a guideline. Participation of the town in the process is key. There are five basic goals that the committee established in developing the plan.
The main goals are to preserve the historic structural integrity of Vermont's covered bridges to the maximum extent possible and to have them be a part of Vermont's network of roads. In the event that the bridge is dismantled and stored for future use, there are concerns that it will never be reconstructed or reused.
There are statutes relating to the removal and preservation of covered bridges. (19 V.S.A. 316 & 317) If the decision is to repair and preserve the current covered bridge in the current location, at sometime in the future, the decision is reversible, whereas if the bridge is dismantled, the decision is final.
There is also the matter of costs and available funding for whatever decisions are made. The estimated costs to reconstruct the bridge at another location, according to Neil Daniels, could be as much as $200,000.
Board members spoke of options that have been discussed for the relocation of the bridge. One would be to have it reassembled at the town garage site easterly of the current access onto the property, for pedestrian/bicycle use over the wetland area to connect to the Town Forest hiking trail on the town property. The site is approximately 1.5 miles for the current bridge location. Another suggestion included for it to go to the Bennington Covered Bridge Museum, which according to committee, is not a viable solution at this time.
Members of the Selectboard, the Historic Covered Bridge Committee and members of the public participated in the overall discussion of the type of "rehabilitation" of the covered bridge to be considered.
With the current bridge, there are essentially two bridges, the glu-lams which carry the weight capacity and the historic bridge which carries itself and the snow load. There was discussion about keeping the current glulam beams, which belong to the state AOT, within the structure to carry the load capacity. Board members expressed more than once that they do not want the current glulam system to remain. The glu-lam beams certainly do not add to the aesthetics and they reduce the amount of light within the bridge. There has been a substantial amount of money used for the repair and upkeep of the bridge, most recently approximately $10,000 for new decking. A new covered bridge, which was voted on by the residents, and designed by the VAOT Structure Division, would have less continued maintenance costs that a rehabilitation of the current structure.
The priority for the Historic Covered Bridge Committee is to retain existing materials that have not deteriorated beyond the point of repair. Existing damage should be replaced with materials of like species, quality and dimensions. There may be a way to add glu-laminated beams under the structure to obtain the desired weight capacity of H20 or 40,000 pounds. The state will work on a possible design to repair the current structure without the current glu-lam beams. The bridge may have to be raised to allow for the glu-lam carrying capacity to be under the structure as there is limited space between the Rock River and the bottom of the bridge during high water, especially ice jams.
Work that was done on the repair of the bridge in 1982 destroyed the true historic value of the bridge by the cutting of the lattice work and the cords. Holes were drilled and more bolts were added to hold the structure together.
The Dummerston Covered Bridge was mentioned as a structure that is essentially a new structure with very few original materials remaining. It is still the decision of the town as to the final determination of the method of "rehabilitation" to be used for the covered bridge, a new covered bridge or the repair of the current structure with a load carrying capacity of 40,000 pounds to accommodate emergency vehicles, school busses and town maintenance highway equipment. Costs and funding sources will also be a factor to consider.
A new covered bridge structure and dismantling of the current bridge is expected to approach the one-million dollar mark, while the "repair" of the current bridge will be less. The state will prepare cost estimates for the "repair" option. The town costs for a rehabilitation are 5% of the total cost. The cost to reassemble the current structure on another site would be an additional cost with some funding sources available depending on the intended use.
No conclusions were reached at this time. The Historic Covered Bridge Committee members were thanked for their willingness to come to Newfane to meet with the Board on this matter.
(The meeting continues with other business.)
[This article was originally posted February 13, 2002]