BROWNSTOWN

Meeting after meeting has been conducted, but no progress has been made on the rehabilitation of the Shieldstown Covered Bridge.

Jackson County Commissioners President Matt Reedy said he has attended several progress meetings with Indiana Department of Transportation officials.

But the project’s contractor, Duncan Robertson Inc. of Franklin, has not been present at those meetings.

During a commissioners meeting earlier this week, Reedy announced that Senator-elect Eric Koch, R-Bedford, has agreed to look into the issue and help in any way he can.

“INDOT only moved us to the local level as far as working with the contractor, and I wanted to get up the ladder,” Reedy said. “Senator-elect Koch will get me up the ladder and everything a lot quicker.”

Reedy said he spoke with Koch at the end of last week, and someone from his office followed up with Reedy on Monday.

In the Nov. 8 general election, Koch won the Senate District 44 seat, which serves all of Brown and Lawrence counties and parts of Bartholomew, Jackson and Monroe counties.

He previously served District 65 in the House of Representatives, which covers Brown County, most of Lawrence County and parts of Monroe, Jackson and Johnson counties. Republican Chris May won that seat in November.

“A senator has got a lot more pull with INDOT than does a county commissioner,” Reedy said. “I’m not exactly sure what he’s going to do, but I have had a decent conversation with him, and I’m comfortable that things will move forward now.”

Reedy said INDOT plans to have another progress meeting at the beginning of 2017, but he doesn’t plan to attend.

“Because this will be the sixth or seventh meeting of the same thing — no resolution, no projected start date, no materials purchased and (Duncan Robertson officials) don’t show up at meetings,” Reedy said. “We can only have so many meetings about the same thing.”

At the Dec. 6 commissioners meeting, Reedy said since Duncan Robertson has not submitted a construction timeline or reordered materials for the project, it might be time for commissioners to consider another approach.

He said he would like to see the state give the county the money to hire another contractor and complete the rehabilitation of the 140-year-old covered bridge.

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 county attorney Susan 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.

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

In early 2015, Duncan Robertson was awarded the $1.1 million contract for the project. The company 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, Bevers said.

Workers with Duncan Robertson recently returned to the site to place a wrap long enough to cover the open sides of bridge, which sits along County Road 200N in Hamilton Township.

Project manager Brad Isaacs with Janssen and Spaans Engineering Inc. of Indianapolis said that seven-day project involved installation of a special protective treated tarpaulin covering that allows air to circulate while protecting the structure and keeping it from deteriorating. That covering was approved by commissioners, he said.

The task was performed because of orders from the Indiana Department of Transportation.

County highway Superintendent Jerry Ault said the bridge is stable and sitting on a solid foundation, and he and another county employee recently took a boat out on the East Fork White River to remove a logjam off of the center pier of the bridge.

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

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

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 INDOT’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. INDOT administers federal monies and assures compliance with federal standards.

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

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Zach Spicer is a reporter for The (Seymour) Tribune. He can be reached at zspicer@tribtown.com or 812-523-7080.