Work to complete a long-delayed $1.1 million project to renovate a historic bridge in central Jackson County is expected to begin in the coming weeks.
The completion date for the work to the Shieldstown Covered Bridge, which spans the East Fork White River just off of County Road 200N in Hamilton Township, remains unclear at this time.
The news of the work follows a meeting last week between local and state officials about the status of the project involving the 143-year-old bridge, which was added to the National Register of Historic Places on June 7, 2016.
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Jerry Ault, superintendent of the Jackson County Highway Department, said he, Jackson County Commissioner Bob Gillaspy and state District 44 Sen. Eric Koch attended the meeting with Indiana Department of Transportation officials at the Statehouse for about an hour and a half.
The meeting produced a list of items that subcontractors are expected to complete. The list includes repairing the damage to asphalt, correcting topsoil issues, fixing multiple leaks in the roof and more.
“It was a big step forward because we were assured that we’re going to get what we want, and that’s all that we’ve asked for,” Ault said. “We need to get this job moving forward because we haven’t heard anything in over 60 days.”
One point of contention during the meeting was the roof on the bridge, which had 11 leaks after it was installed. Ault said he was disappointed when a representative with a contractor at the meeting said the blueprints did not specify that the roof be watertight.
Another was the asphalt around the areas where handrails were installed on the north and south ends of the bridge. The asphalt was scratched at the surface as crews installed them, Ault said.
“Anyone that has a halfway decent eye can tell. You don’t even have to know anything about construction,” he said. “It looked like third graders put it together.”
The assurance follows an often tense and turbulent relationship between local and state officials and Duncan Robertson, spawned by constant delays and inadequate materials.
The project was originally scheduled to be completed July 31, 2016, but materials for the project did not meet specifications. The project’s completion date was then extended for two years, and work was supposed to wrapped up last summer, but it still yet to be completed.
The company has accrued fines that added up to around $200,000 in late 2016 after a $1,500 a day fine was outlined in the contract.
County attorney Susan Bevers said INDOT suspended the fines when they took over the inspection of the project. What amount the fines has reached is unclear.
“Jackson County is not aware of what the balance of the fines is or how the balance will be collected,” she said.
Gillaspy said he has attended at least six meetings with INDOT officials — after the state took over bridge inspection work — and has participated in two inspections.
Duncan Robertson was awarded a $1.1 million contract, which was an 80/20 match, for the project in January 2015.
The 355-foot long bridge was built in 1876 by Joseph J. Daniels and could be another destination for visitors to the county. The Medora Covered Bridge — also built by Daniels — attracted more than 20,000 visitors annually, according to organizers of the Friends of the Medora Covered Bridge.