Bridge rehab project resumes: Work on Shieldstown landmark started in 2015


For the first time in about a year and a half, construction equipment sits near the Shieldstown Covered Bridge.

A barrier blocking one end of the bridge also has been pushed to the side.

To the delight of county officials and covered bridge enthusiasts, the rehabilitation project has resumed.

Duncan Robertson Inc. in Franklin was awarded the contract for the project in early 2015, and a subcontractor removed the siding from the bridge along County Road 200N in Hamilton Township in the spring of that year.

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The project then stalled for months because nearly 70 percent of the wood obtained for the sides of the 141-year-old 355-foot-long covered bridge was rejected after failing to meet national historic preservation standards. It’s listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Shingles purchased for the roof replacement part of the project didn’t meet specifications, either.

Duncan Robertson had until July 31, 2016, to complete the work, but it didn’t, so it has been incurring fines at the rate of $1,500 a day.

After moving its equipment from the job site in early 2016 and making little contact with the state or county, Duncan Robertson returned to the site in December to place a wrap long enough to cover the open sides of the bridge.

At the end of last year, county officials asked for a push from the Indiana Department of Transportation and District 44 Sen. Eric Koch, R-Bedford, to get the project back on track.

Duncan Robertson claimed it would resume work Sept. 1, but during a recent progress meeting at INDOT, Marcus Robertson said it was moved up to Aug. 7. He also said Dan Collum of Square and Level Construction in Bridgeton will do the work. That company specializes in covered bridge reconstruction.

INDOT has appointed engineer Steven Herald to the project. He, however, has never done historic covered bridge rehabilitation. INDOT plans to meet with county officials Wednesday, and Jackson County Highway Superintendent Jerry Ault will continue to attend progress meetings every other week.

Jackson County Commissioner Bob Gillaspy said he recently talked to Collom and learned he did some work on the Medora Covered Bridge.

Gillaspy said he told Collom how the Shieldstown project has taken much longer than county officials expected and wanted to see it completed.

“He seemed very conscientious. I think he’s experienced enough. I think he’s got good intentions,” Gillaspy said. “He does what the (general contractor) will allow. Anything that has to do with the bridge when it was originally drawn should be the way it’s built. If they have a change order, we need the opportunity to review that.”

Since Ault will be meeting with INDOT biweekly, commissioners want him to check on the bridge work to ensure it’s compliant. They also discussed having someone from Janssen and Spaans Engineering Inc. in Indianapolis check for compliance. That firm is in charge of the engineering, inspection and design of the project.

As a sponsor of the $1.1 million project, Jackson County has put in 20 percent of the costs. A National Historic Covered Bridge grant is funding the rest, and INDOT administers the federal monies and assures compliance with federal standards.

Whether or not INDOT decides to pursue collecting liquidated damages from Duncan Robertson for the project stalling because of rejected materials, officials want to ensure the county has met federal highway specifications. That way, federal officials can’t come back and make the county pay the entire cost of the project.

“I just want you to have teeth when federal highway goes after INDOT that we didn’t acquiesce to something that INDOT did,” county attorney Susan Bevers told commissioners.

The field office at the worksite recently was cleaned out, and Bevers said she and Ault are in the process of retrieving county property that was inside it. She said that included some files that Janssen and Spaans or the county have to keep on record for a minimum of 10 years.

The county’s original file on the bridge, including all of the change orders and what has been requested and denied to date, also was among the files in the office.

INDOT typically allows contractors to shut down from December to April, but Ault said an exception was made for Duncan Robertson so work continues through the winter as long as weather permits. He said it’s possible the project could be completed by the fall of 2018.

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