Local News

County benefits from bridge match

The Thayer County Commissioners were pleased with road superintentendent George Gerdes’s report Jan. 18.
In November, Gerdes took advantage of the first round in the County Bridge Match Program under the Transportation Innovation Act by applying for the repairs of five structurally deficient bridges.
Gerdes informed the commissioners all five were approved at the state’s cost of 55 percent of the estimated $380,000 to repair the bridges.
Of the 80 submitted proposals for 151 bridges from across Nebraska, 22 proposals for 68 bridges in 32 counties, including Thayer, were selected for funding.
Among the match program requirements, bridges had to be structurally deficient and not located on minimum maintenance roads.
In addition to the remaining 45 percent of $380,000, the county may have to fund an engineering study on hydrology. The state will pay 70 percent of the 55 percent up front and the remainder will be doled out bridge by bridge.
But, Gerdes said the county will be able to throw its hours of labor spent on repairs into the 45 percent.
The five bridges selected are located at:
•7000 and River Road
•5200-5300 Road E
•5300 between Roads S and T
•7200-7300 Road B
•6500-6600 Road W
Four of the bridges are timber and no longer useful.
“They’re rated low enough a loaded semi can’t go over them,” Gerdes said. “We have had to repair all five of these in the last five years.”
Gerdes narrowed his selection down to 11 bridges and chose the five from there.
He said new director Kyle Schneweis at the Nebraska Department of Roads understands Nebraska’s bridges are in need of repairs.
“There are some counties that have way more bridges and can’t fund themselves, so they came up with this program.
A match selection criteria map shows most of the bridges are located on the east side of the state with a concentration in the southeastern corner.   
Gerdes will try again for the match program next year and most likely, select a larger bridge.
He told the commissioners he believes the five were approved because the county is able to pour its own concrete slabs.
“Not too many counties do that,” Commissioner David Bruning.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if we have other counties come look at our slabs,” Gerdes said.
Gerdes doesn’t know other counties that pour their own slabs and just a few build their own bridges, he said.
“It saves money,” he said.
Pouring is just one way the county saved money.
Gerdes turned down a proposal from one firm to submit the forms. Instead, he applied himself.
“They wanted to charge the county,” Gerdes said.
In other business, the commissioners heard from Nebraska Emergency Management Agency representatives and county emergency manager, Bill McPherson.
Earl Imler, NEMA operations sections manager and Bryan Tuma, assistant director for NEMA, provided the commissioners with a copy of the Emergency Managment Act that defines how NEMA responds to emergencies in the state.
But as NEMA handles disasters, one of its primary rules is to limit interference in local operations. The “boots on the ground” in Thayer County is McPherson.
“He is the point man,” Imler said. “Bill did a good job of sending incident status reports to us over the ice storm. It helps us to plan forward. We do not need to send a team.”
“Bill has always been on top of it and is very proactive. He called me in Nebraska City and said they were going to have meeting about the ice storm,” Bruning said.

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