Efforts to get the $1 million-plus project to rehabilitate one of the county’s two historic covered bridges back on track remains stalled.

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. The contract, awarded to that company in early 2015, had a completion date of July 31 of this year, but the work is far from complete.

The company can be fined as much as $1,500 a day after the deadline unless the state grants an extension.

Story continues below gallery

Jackson County is the sponsor of the project and is paying 20 percent of the costs, while a National Historic Covered Bridge grant is funding the rest. The Indiana Department of Transportation administers federal monies and assures compliance with federal standards.

Jackson County commissioners discussed the status of the project Tuesday night with their project manager, Brad Isaacs with Janssen and Spaans Engineering Inc. of Indianapolis, and Indiana Department of Transportation officials involved with the project.

Commissioners had asked that someone with Duncan Robertson attend the meeting at the courthouse annex in Brownstown to address the reasons behind the project’s delay. No company representatives showed up.

Joe Jones, INDOT’s project manager, addressed the issue, including the lack of communication with Duncan Robertson and frustrations with delays in the project.

He said the state wants the same thing everyone else does — completion of the project.

Jones said he had corresponded by email with Duncan Robertson about a week ago.

“They knew of this meeting and chose not to come,” he 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.

The white oak Duncan Robertson purchased for the project had a price tag of about $55,000 and was delivered in July 2015, Isaacs said. The wood had not been air-dried/seasoned for eight months as required for use in a historic bridge.

The company eventually tried to force-dry the wood so it could be used for the project, but some of the wood was cracked and was rejected again, Isaacs said.

He said white oak tends to crack while air drying but not to the extent of the wood for the bridge project.

“They took a calculated risk,” Isaacs said.

Most of the wood was rejected, and the contractor was not happy with that determination, Isaacs said. The company then hauled the material away.

Jones said some of the materials the contractor had obtained were acceptable and could be used.

He said it was his plan to get the contractor to reorder the remainder of the materials that were needed to complete the project and then get them back on site consistently to complete other parts of the project.

“We need them on the job working on the things that can be worked on,” he said.

That includes slope grading, abutment repairs and work on approaches, Jones said.

Commissioner Tom Joray asked how long it would take to get the siding back on the bridge if the materials were available and was told it would be 5½ months.

“How do we protect this bridge over the winter?” Joray said.

Jones said covering exposed portions of the bridge would hold moisture and create a sail when the wind blows.

Local resident Fleeta Arthur said the county is only to get one chance to do the work properly.

“The standards need to be met,” she said. “I don’t want to be back here in 10 years. I don’t want to be back in 15 years.”

At a glance

The Shieldstown Covered Bridge, a 355-foot-long double-span Burr arch truss bridge, was built by Joseph J. Daniels in 1876.

It hasn’t carried vehicular traffic since 1980.

It’s listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Author photo
Aubrey Woods is editor of The (Seymour) Tribune. He can be reached at awoods@tribtown.com or 812-523-7051.