HOT SPRINGS – Another county bridge was the topic of discussion at the Fall River County Commission meeting last Tuesday, Oct. 17, held in the former ambulance building, which is now known as the South Annex.
Referred to by commissioners as the “Nesti Bridge,” so-named after the nearby landowner, this concrete 140-foot x 24-foot structure was built in 1932 and spans Fall River along Scenic Road east of Hot Springs, approximately one mile west of Maverick Junction. That portion of Scenic Road itself runs parallel with Fall River Road and serves two businesses – Fall River Veterinary Clinic and JN Bar Honey & Pollination – as well as a few private residences.
The bridge topic was first brought up during Highway Superintendent Randy Seiler’s update to commissioners, but was twice expanded upon later in the meeting, first during an agenda item specifically scheduled to discuss maintenance options for the bridge, and then again at the end of the commission meeting when representatives from Brosz Engineering were present to further explain their recommendations.
Based on the engineering study done by Brosz to determine the condition of the bridge, it was their recommendation to have county crews scrape off the layer of asphalt on top of the bridge, which will allow for further analysis of the overall condition of the concrete deck. Removal of the asphalt, Seiler estimated, would cost the county approximately $7,000 to $10,000, but is very dependent on how easily it comes off. Once that layer is off, state engineers will want to see the deck, Seiler said, which will then determine what, if any, additional steps are needed to extend the life of the bridge.
Initial commissioner discussion was leaning towards the approval of following the engineers’ recommendation of removing the asphalt, but if the repair options afterwards were going to be too costly, the majority of the commissioners were seemingly supportive of closing the bridge, citing the nearby alternate access to Fall River Road several hundred feet to the west, near the entrance to the vet clinic.
Also present at the meeting was JN Bar Honey business owner Jim Nesti who lives near the bridge and has operated his honey business there for the past 33 years.
Nesti read a letter he had written to the commissioners which cited a number of reasons why the bridge is important to the county, and more specifically, its importance to his business, which is part of the state’s No. 1 industry of agriculture, he said.
Nesti said he established his business in its current location based on the availability of nearby bridge access. He said the bridge’s current condition is due to the county’s lack of routine maintenance on the bridge for the past 10 years.
“I thought maintaining infrastructure is the purpose of the county?” he stated. “Because of how the bridge has been neglected, it will now likely cost a lot to fix.”
In reference to the county possibly closing the bridge and forcing him to gain access to his business by using the alternate entrance/exit near the vet clinic, Nesti said that entrance is too narrow for his semi-trucks to enter there if another vehicle is there as well.
Commissioner Joe Allen said he disagreed with Nesti’s assessment that the nearby alternate entrance was too narrow, and that he would support closing the bridge if repair costs were high.
Later in the meeting when representatives from Brosz Engineering were present, commissioners learned more about why it was important to see what was underneath the asphalt in order to make an informed decision on the future of the bridge. Ross Eberle, with Brosz Engineering, said once the asphalt is off, there are five different categories of options to patch the deck based on the severity of the delamination. He cited some extreme examples of costs other counties have endured recently when repairing similar-sized bridges, which were as high as $250,000. He said it may or may not be that bad.
“It’s all guessing at this point until you take off the asphalt,” he said.
Since the current condition of the bridge was not deemed to be dangerous or warrant its closure, Commission Chairman Joe Falkenburg reminded his fellow commissioners that at this point they basically had two options: leave the bridge as-is and do nothing, or go with the engineers’ recommendation and remove the asphalt to learn more about its overall condition.
In the end, commissioners approved a motion to remove the layer of asphalt, with all voting in favor, except Allen.
In other business, the county commission:
• Heard from Darryl Crown with Black Hills Lifeflight regarding insurance for county residents should they ever need Lifeflight services. See related story A1.
• Approved extending the moratorium on selling tax liens. Commissioner Paul Nabholz provided a handout citing seven different reasons why continuing the moratorium was in the best interests of the county. Included in his reasoning was how not selling tax liens helps ensure that all taxpayers are treated fairly; the added paperwork the treasurer’s office endures when tax liens are sold; keeping all tax liens away from out-of-state investors ensures the county holds onto the best delinquent properties which will most likely be paid off without court proceedings; and, how 92 percent of the state’s counties do not sell liens.
• Approved a plan to apply chip seal and begin maintaining an 800-foot portion of a county road which leads into Hot Brook Estates. Hwy. Supt. Seiler said the housing development was in the process of establishing a road district and that this 800-foot portion of the road extends past the Hot Brook Estates sign, but that the county had previously stopped performing maintenance at the sign, which is also where the pavement had ended. He recommended that since its owned by the county, the county should seal it and begin maintaining it.
• Heard from Dusty Pence during Public Comment, who said she hoped, that since the county now had additional space since purchasing and remodeling the former ambulance shed, the county would finally be able to address her request to record commission meetings. Previously, one of the reasons the commissioners had been opposed to the filming was due to the meetings being held in the courtroom, which does not allow for cameras.