By DAVID GREEN
The East Main Street bridge over Silver Creek is approaching the time for replacement, according to an inspector, and federal funds might be available to cover most of the cost.
Morenci city council members met in a special session Thursday in order to beat an application deadline for funding.
The required semi-annual inspection of the bridge led to the suggestion for replacement, said city supervisor Barney Vanderpool, and also brought a reduction of the load limit.
Vanderpool said new signs have been posted, reducing load limits from 61 tons to 42 tons.
If the city is chosen to receive the grant, federal sources would cover 95 percent of the estimated $300,000 project. That would leave the city with about $15,000 to pay, plus engineering costs. Replacement would be scheduled in 2011.
“The engineer is recommending inspection every year to keep an eye on it,” Vanderpool said. “It would be nice to leave the abutments, but they’re recommending 100 percent rebuild.”
The inspection found scaling on the metal beams of the structure, Vanderpool said, and underwash around the abutments.
Council members discussed the difficulties that will arise from closing the road during construction, but Vanderpool pointed out that a planned closure is better than an emergency closing that could last for an even longer period of time.
“If something happened and we had to shut it down, it would be really difficult,” he said.
Former council member Scott Merillat, who formerly worked as an engineer with the road commission, volunteered to complete the required paperwork for the application.
LAND LEASE—To sell or to lease? That was a question council members debated Thursday in regard to property in the industrial park used for a telecommunications tower.
SBA Communications rents the 0.75 acre plot to hang cellular telephone antennae, paying the city $5,700 annually.
In March, SBA offered to lease the property for 40 years for a lump sum payment of $67,000. The city gave a counter offer of $75,000, and SBA agreed to increase its price to $69,000—either for a lease agreement or to buy the property.
Council member Keith Pennington said he was in favor of a long-term agreement because with changing technology, there’s no certainty that cellular towers will even be in use 20 years down the road.
Dick Hewitt suggested leasing the property for 40 years at $69,000 and investing the funds. No one seconded the motion so Tracy Schell made a motion to sell the property for $69,000. Property taxes were estimated at $700 annually. Council voted unanimously to accept that option.
The 300-foot tower was built in 2001 for Verizon.