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Decision needed soon on bridge fix



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March 19, 2014 - The wooden bridge spanning a stream through Depot Park has been a source of conflict between City Manager Carol Eberhardt and watchdog resident Cory Johnston.

Johnston, who is a structural engineer, claimed the bridge was more rebuilt than repaired and should meet Americans with Disabilities Act standards.

Johnston, who submitted a Freedom of Information Act request for documents regarding the repair, said there was not enough documentation the bridge was professionally analyzed by a qualified engineer and could wind up causing a lawsuit.

Calls for comment from the city's engineer, Gary Tressel of Hubbell, Roth and Clark, went unreturned.

The Clarkston News recently submitted a FOIA request for documents relating to the bridge to see if a qualified engineer provided specifications for the work. The City provided information from the Dec. 9, 2013 and Jan. 13, 2014 council meetings, along with a letter from Tressel, dated Dec. 10, 2013.

In his letter, Tressel said temporary repairs needed to be made to the bridge.

"This should not be considered something you want to live with for more than a short term of approximately 6-9 months," the letter stated.

It also outlined two possible long-term solutions, including removing the bridge and securing new I-beams, and adding new decking and handrails; the other solution was eliminating the bridge and the pathway all together.

When repairs were originally discussed in 2013, city officials agreed the bridge needed to meet ADA standards. In November 2013, DWP Manager Jason Miller submitted a letter to city council saying he had inspected the bridge and discovered the plank boards were cracking and screws were coming out.

Last year, Eberhardt told the council she met with Tressel to discuss the bridge.

"The council should understand this is only temporary," added Eberhardt. "The bridge needs to be replaced this spring. If the council decides to replace it, it must be ADA compliant."

Eberhardt said in order to be ADA compliant, the bridge would need to be 12-feet wide and the grade of the slope from a lift station down to the bridge would also need to be brought into compliance.

In a letter to the editor of The Clarkston News, former Councilman Richard Bisio said a Dec. 25 article in CNews did not examine Johnston's implicit accusation that Tressel is not "a qualified engineer regarding what needed to be done to the bridge." Johnston said he was looking for specifications from a qualified engineer to ensure the work was done accurately. The article noted the city consulted with Tressel.

When Johnston submitted the first FOIA, the only documents he was given was a letter from Tressel stating the bridge should be removed and slung to the shore before a telephone pole was used to replace the center beam. The letter also stated the bridge needed to be brought into ADA compliance and outlined long-term repairs. It did not state any specifications to perform the work.

Johnston, wondering where the documents where outlining specifications from an engineer, submitted a second FOIA request asking for additional information.

The response he received stated there was no more information regarding the bridge.

"Someone with qualifications or certifications should have reviewed what was done to make sure it was safe," Johnston said.

Staff writer covering Independence Township and Clarkston area.
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