BROWNSTOWN

The Franklin company that walked away from a $1.1 million project to renovate a 140-year-old covered bridge in central Jackson County earlier this year recently returned to the site.

Workers with Duncan Robertson Inc., however, only remained at the historic Shieldstown Covered Bridge along County Road 200N in Hamilton Township long enough to cover the open sides of the bridge.

“They were here last week to put wrap on the structure of the bridge to keep it from deteriorating,” county highway Superintendent Jerry Ault said.

The company only did that because of orders from the Indiana Department of Transportation, he said.

Project manager Brad Isaacs said the seven-day project to cover the sides of the bridge involved installation of a special protective treated tarpaulin covering that allows air to circulate while protecting the structure. That covering was approved by commissioners, he said.

The 355-foot-long bridge, built in 1876 by Joseph J. Daniels, was added to the National Register of Historic Places on June 7.

Duncan Robertson was awarded a $1.1 million contract for the project in early 2015 and had until July 31 of this year to complete it. The work, which includes replacement of some of the wood beams and roof and replacing the joists under the bridge, is far from complete, and the company is incurring fines at the rate of $1,500 a day.

The fines now total more than $200,000, county attorney Susan Bevers told county commissioners during their meeting Tuesday night at the courthouse annex.

Commissioner Jerry Hounshel said he was glad to see the bridge had been wrapped, while Commissioner Tom Joray said he wanted everyone to know that the bridge is in good shape and not in any kind of danger.

Duncan Robertson moved its equipment from the job earlier this year and has had little contact with the state or county since doing so.

Isaacs, who is with Janssen and Spaans Engineering Inc. of Indianapolis, said no company officials have attended any of the recent meetings he has attended about the project. Company officials have not returned calls from The Tribune.

Materials obtained for the work, including 28 pieces of white oak, were rejected by Isaacs and INDOT area engineer Joe Middeler. As project manager, Isaacs also is responsible for completing paperwork related to the federal funds that are being used for the work.

After the material was rejected, Isaacs said Duncan Robertson officials filed a notice of change of conditions because of the rejection of the materials.

Officials with Indiana Landmarks, the Indiana Department of Natural Resources Division of Historical Preservation and Archaeology and the Indiana Department of Transportation’s Cultural Resources Office upheld the decision to reject the materials because they did not meet specifications, Isaacs said.

He said said those agencies were responsible for obtaining 80 percent of the funding for the work and are not going to accept subpar materials. Shingles purchased for the roof replacement part of the project don’t meet specifications, either, Isaacs said.

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.

Isaacs said Duncan Robertson had been told to reorder the materials and provide documentation that that had been done by Nov. 14. He said he has not received that documentation or a revised construction timeline.

During Tuesday’s meeting, commissioners talked about how to get the project back on track and finished.

Commissioners President Matt Reedy said since the company has apparently not submitted a construction timeline or reordered materials for the project, it might be time for commissioners to consider another approach.

“I don’t like it, and I am really tired of messing with it,” Reedy said.

He said he would like to see the state give the county the money to hire another contractor and complete the project.

He said he thinks it’s time for the county to take legal action against the state because the state is the only one that has access to the company’s performance bond for the project. That bond covers the cost of the project.

Reedy asked Bevers to send a letter to INDOT stating commissioners would like to see a construction timeline and proof the timber had been ordered by Dec. 16.

If those conditions are not met, Reedy said the county would consider pursuing legal avenues against the state.

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