HARRISVILLE — The French Settlement Road bridge bid opening Wednesday morning left Lewis County officials stunned and brainstorming for a way to find additional money to fund the project — with just days to figure it out.
Earlier this month, county legislators authorized the Ways and Means Committee to accept the lowest bid to repair the bridge, up to $200,000, after an inspection last fall closed the town of Diana bridge to traffic weighing more than 10 tons.
The four bids received ranged from $367,00 to $466,000. Vector Construction Corporation, Cicero, was the lowest bidder. Legislators expected the range to be around half those totals based on a $25,000 engineering estimate from Barton & Loguidice D.P.C.
Committee members Philip C. Hathway, R-Diana, and Craig P. Brennan, R-Deer River, asked for engineers to check whether errors had been made in the original study or if the increase in steel and concrete pricing since the estimate was done last fall could have caused such a disparity.
The county expected to pay for the project with funds received from the state’s Consolidated Highway Improvement Program.
“We don’t receive that money until the project is complete. We will then get reimbursed from the state,” said Highway Superintendent David L. Becker. Steel for the project must be ordered next week for the bridge work to be completed by April 2015 to collect the CHIPs money.
With the county’s highway repaving projects nearing completion and $34,000 already recaptured by shortening other projects, there were few areas in which to shift money.
Initial ideas from Mr. Becker were the possibility of postponing a portion of outer Stowe Street repaving until next year, while acquiring an additional $30,000 from the department’s bridge budget.
A shortfall of about $100,000 would remain. Mr. Hathway and Mr. Brennan asked Mr. Becker to continue to consider his budget options. In the meantime, they will present the dilemma to the full board and discuss potential funding available with the county treasurer.
“This is a big time safety issue,” said Mr. Hathway, noting the bridge’s current restrictions force fire trucks to be rerouted. Plows, school buses and logging trucks also are not allowed on the bridge.
Hours after the bid opening, Mr. Brennan confirmed that Mr. Becker had been crunching numbers and getting creative with his five-year paving plan, potentially dropping the shortfall to about $6,000.
“He’s done an outstanding job that won’t compromise work moving forward or significantly impact the five-year plan for the highway department,” said Mr. Brennan.
An emergency meeting will need to be called if the board decides to vote to spend additional money on the repairs.