Driving by the Shieldstown Covered Bridge, workers should be seen rehabilitating the historic structure.
Instead, only a few stacks of wood and a couple of pieces of construction-related equipment remain on the bridge. Weeds also are running rampant in the area, holes are in the floor of the bridge and construction gates are pushed to the side.
The project’s contractor, Duncan Robertson Inc. of Franklin, recently moved most of its equipment from the site along County Road 200N in Hamilton Township between Seymour and Brownstown.
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The company is supposed to have the project done by July 31, but work is far from complete.
When the three Jackson County commissioners learned construction equipment had been removed, they expressed frustration.
President Matt Reedy said because work is stalled again, he wondered if the county highway department needs to put tarps up on the bridge to protect it. The wooden siding was removed by a subcontractor in the spring of 2015 and still has not been replaced.
“Right now, I haven’t seen enough get done there in the last year to amount to a hill of beans,” Reedy said.
“It looks dangerous to me right now, very dangerous,” commissioner Tom Joray said. “We certainly don’t want pedestrians going across that bridge, which they will if we don’t do something.”
The 355-foot-long double-span Burr arch truss bridge, built by Joseph J. Daniels in 1876, hasn’t carried vehicular traffic since 1980. It’s listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Commissioner Jerry Hounshel said he’s worried about the bridge being exposed to the elements, noting it could collapse if a strong wind came through the area.
Reedy said the commissioners recently received an email from the Indiana Department of Transportation, but it didn’t shed much light on what has been done on the bridge.
Commissioners also wanted clarification on a note from the Federal Highway Administration about not following certain guidelines in order to get the project done.
They asked Jackson County Highway superintendent Jerry Ault to contact INDOT official Joe Jones, project manager Brad Isaacs with Janssen and Spaans Engineering Inc. of Indianapolis and Duncan Robertson representatives about coming to the next commissioners meeting. That’s set for 6 p.m. July 5 at the Jackson County Courthouse Annex in Brownstown.
“If we could work with this contractor at all, obviously, that’s the best way to expedite the project,” Joray said.
The project began in April 2015, but Duncan Robertson officials told Isaacs they were having trouble locating enough white oak to begin the work on the floor beams, bracing, arches, chords and posts.
Work was stalled for several weeks 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.
All of the siding was removed, and some crack sealing of the old wood was done, but that’s about the extent of the work.
Among the work that needs to be completed is replacement of the wood beams and roof, redoing the driveways and paved areas, tuckpointing of the old piers in the East Fork White River and replacing the joists under the bridge.
In January, contractor Marcus Robertson told Warren Martin, who was county highway superintendent at the time, the project would not be completed before the end of this year because he couldn’t get the lumber in time.
INDOT can fine the company as much as $1,500 a day after the July 31 deadline unless an extension is granted.
Jackson County is the sponsor of the $1 million project and will pay 20 percent of the costs, while the FHA will pay the rest. INDOT administers federal money and assures compliance with FHA standards.
What: Jackson County commissioners meeting
When: 6 p.m. July 5
Where: Jackson County Courthouse Annex, 220 E. Walnut St., Brownstown
On the agenda: Update on the Shieldstown Covered Bridge rehabilitation project; commissioners hope to have the contractor, the project manager and a state official present