A $1 million project to rehabilitate one of Jackson County’s two historic covered bridges has become side-tracked and may take as much as another year to complete.
The delays continue to frustrate county officials, including highway superintendent Warren Martin.
Martin said he recently was told by Marcus Robertson with Duncan Robertson Inc. in Franklin the Shieldstown Covered Bridge project would not be complete before the end of this year. Company officials could not be reached for comment.
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The company’s deadline with the state to complete the work is July 31. The Indiana Department of Transportation can fine the company as much as $1,500 a day after that deadline unless an extension is granted, Martin said.
“The contractor is telling us they can’t get the lumber in time to get it done on time,” Martin said.
He recently gave a report to county commissioners about the project.
Martin said he and the state need to have a meeting with Robertson to see what needs to be done to push the project forward, and that meeting is not happening fast enough.
“I think it’s just a matter of getting the right material,” Martin said. “There is time to get the work finished (prior to the deadline).”
The project has been stalled for months because nearly 70 percent of the wood the contractor obtained for the sides of the bridge was rejected because it was not up to national historic preservation standards, Martin said.
Only a couple of pieces of construction equipment and a small stack of boards can be found at the site, and construction gates block each end of the structure.
A subcontractor removed the siding from the bridge in the spring of 2015, but work stopped shortly after that point, Martin said.
Martin said it’s not ideal for the sides of the bridge, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, are exposed to the elements.
“But the roof is still on it,” Martin said. “You’ve had siding that’s open at the top, so rain has been blowing on it for years.”
If there was an issue about losing the bridge, Martin said he would do something to make sure that doesn’t happen.
“INDOT says all they can do is ask him for a new updated schedule,” Martin said. “Beyond that, when he doesn’t make the deadline, they can impose the penalty.”
The contract calls for the replacement of rotten and split timbers on the covered bridge, a 355-foot-long double-span Burr arch truss bridge built by Joseph J. Daniels in 1876. It hasn’t carried vehicular traffic since 1980.
The project began in April 2015, but Duncan Robertson officials told project manager Brad Isaacs they were having trouble locating enough white oak to begin the work on the floor beams, bracing, arches, chords and posts, Martin said.
Isaacs is with Janssen and Spaans Engineering Inc. of Indianapolis, which developed the plans for the project. He is responsible for day-to-day project supervision.
Martin said Isaacs checks on the bridge often, but nothing has been done for some time.
Jerry Hounshel, president of the Jackson County Board of Commissioners, said it sounds as if the issue may eventually find its way to a courtroom.
All of the siding has been removed, and some crack sealing of the old wood was done. But that’s about the extent of the work, Martin said.
Among the work that needs to be completed is replacement of the wood beams, redoing the driveways and paved areas, tuckpointing of the old piers in the East Fork White River and replacing the joists under the bridge.
Yellow pine will be used in the supports and rafters of the bridge, which is located five miles west of Seymour and one mile north of U.S. 50 on County Road 200N in Hamilton Township. The siding and battens will be yellow poplar, while the portal siding will be western red cedar. The company also will replace the roof and repair piers and abutments.
Jackson County is the sponsor of the project and will pay 20 percent of the costs, while the Federal Highway Administration will pay the rest. INDOT administers federal money and assures compliance with FHA standards.