NEWS

Antrim needs to decide future of Martin’s Mill Bridge soon

PAT FRIDGEN

The Antrim Township Board of Supervisors set another worksession to address the future of Martin's Mill Bridge. It met with engineer Husam Obeid from P. Joseph Lehman Inc., Hollidaysburg, on March 27, but decided it needed even more time to determine how or if to spend $945,000 in grant money, which required some matching funds, on the 163-year-old covered bridge.

Antrim was awarded $245,000 in April 2008 through Rep. Bill Shuster's office, and $700,000 in December from the National Historic Covered Bridge Preservation Association, under the Federal Highway Administration. The township budgeted $75,000 in initial engineering expenses but authorized just $55,000 to date for Lehman's expenses meeting DEP and PennDOT approvals. Obeid told James Byers, John Alleman, Pat Heraty, Rick Baer and Fred Young III his firm had completed most of its upfront tasks, and the remaining $11,000 would cover the rest. He was waiting for direction on what the board wanted done next.

The smaller grant was directed to structural repairs and improvements, Obeid continued, but the entire bridge would be dismantled if the large grant was accepted. Then the engineers could find more damage and would replace those pieces. The waving of the structure would be corrected.

"This one (bridge) I know the township has been very careful with, so we may not find more damage," he said.

Alleman asked how much more time the $245,000 grant would buy the bridge. Obeid did not know, but said if both grants were used, "You will get something you won't have to worry about in 10 or 20 years. It should last 30 or 40 years. Whoever gave the money thought this project was worth it. The money won't be available in 10 years."

Antrim had to put up 20 percent of the cost, or could pay for the design itself, Obeid said, which would be less money. Lehman had also asked for another $21,000 since it started the project, because PennDOT changed some of its requirements. Antrim administrator Brad Graham said when it was all done, Antrim would have been expected to contribute $110,000 to the restoration.

Obeid wanted a decision sooner rather than later. PennDOT planned to let bids for any bridge work in 2014, but preliminary work, such as permitting, could take a year, so there wasn't much of a cushion. He agreed to return at 6 p.m. April 10 to discuss the matter again.

Resident Terry Whitmore opposed accepting the $700,000 grant. It was still taxpayer money, he argued, and people had to draw a line somewhere. Scott Diffenderfer asked the board to proceed. "It's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for a historic feature of our township."

Flooding

Graham reported he had received a letter from residents along Williamson Road who wanted something done about flooding. Rep. Todd Rock was organizing a meeting with Antrim, the Borough of Greencastle and PennDOT to explore remedies. Graham warned that corrections were not typically handled by the township.

Zoning officer Sylvia House explained that property owners had not maintained their swales, which allowed too much water to flow over into yards. The people had filled their swales with grass clippings, leaves and debris. The Williamson Road culvert belonged to the state. In the past Antrim had asked residents to clean out their swales for better stormwater management, and offered to regrade part of the run. Only three homeowners gave permission for a right-of-way for the work.

"We would have needed 100 percent cooperation, so it was dropped," she said.

Byers commented, "I don't want to give people false hope that the township can do anything."

Other business

Citizen Al Jimick asked the supervisors to consider a dog ordinance. Without one, people could not file compliants in the magisterial district justice office or with the dog warden.

House presented ordinance changes to permitted and conditional uses, and the board agreed to post them on the township website for public review at Diffenderfer's request.

The supervisors signed the sewer lease agreement which Antrim Township Municipal Authority members had signed the night before.

The board had two executive sessions during the evening, one for personnel and one for personnel and possible litigation.