Wednesday, January 23, 2013
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City reaches a stalemate on Oglesby Avenue bridge

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[January 23, 2013]  Tuesday evening there were two action items on the Lincoln City Council voting agenda regarding a bridge on Oglesby Avenue. At first glance it appeared that they were an "either, or" choice for the council: either pass motion 1 or decline and take motion 2.

However in the end, neither motion carried a majority vote. With both motions failing, the future of the bridge is still in question.

The first motion was for approval of a plan to retain the Oglesby bridge for pedestrian traffic with the installation of decorative restraints. Melody Anderson made the motion to approve this plan, and it was seconded by Tom O'Donohue.

As she made the motion, Anderson added a qualifier, saying this would be the plan, providing the upkeep and maintenance of the bridge was not cost-prohibitive to the city.

During discussion Marty Neitzel questioned the amendment, and Anderson said that if the city chooses not to remove the bridge, it will still have to be inspected to make sure it is safe.

It was later noted by city engineer Darren Forgy that when the bridge was condemned two years ago, it had been inspected just a few weeks earlier and passed inspection. Since being closed, there is a possibility that additional segments of the bridge have also become unsafe.

The council had in earlier discussions recognized that even for foot traffic, some repairs would have to be made to the bridge.

Anderson said that after the inspection, if repair work proved to be too costly, the city would have to reconsider the plan.

The second motion included using funds from a federal bridge replacement program to remove the bridge. Even though the second motion wasn't made until later in the evening, the possibility of taking that option entered into the discussion of the first motion.

Neitzel asked Forgy about the federal funds, and Forgy explained that he had talked with county engineer Bret Aukamp about getting this money.

Forgy said the federal funds currently belong to the county, but that Aukamp had spoken favorably about requesting of the Logan County Board that up to $100,000 be turned over to the city for this project.

With that money, the city would have to completely remove the bridge, build a cul-de-sac on the south side and put up a barrier on the north side of the bridge.

Neitzel noted that in last week's discussions, this would be option 5 in the 6 options Forgy had presented. Option 5 had been discussed very little at that meeting because it contained provisions for a cul-de-sac, something none of the aldermen expressed an interest in at that time.

She said option 5 held a price tag of approximately $108,000. She wanted to know if the city could count on only having to come up with $8,000.

Forgy said he wouldn't count on it. He explained that in using federal dollars, there would be a different set of regulations and compliances the city would have to meet, and that could drive the cost up.

Newly appointed Alderman Bruce Carmitchel directed a question to Anderson, asking what she thought would be a fair cost for maintaining the bridge. Forgy interjected the answer, saying that over the long term, the cost of keeping the bridge couldn't really be determined.

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Neitzel then wondered if the city could hold off on making a decision until it was known just how much money the county could provide.

Forgy said that to get a decision from the county, the full board would have to vote on whether or not to give the city the money. He said the city would have to make the decision to ask for it before that vote would be taken.

In the end the first motion failed by a very close vote of four in favor and five opposed. Of the nine aldermen present, O'Donohue, Anderson, Kathy Horn and Carmitchel voted in favor. Neitzel, David Armbrust, Stacy Bacon, Tibbs and Jeff Hoinacki voted against it. Alderman David Wilmert was absent for the evening.

The second motion up for consideration was for approval of the option to use federal funds from a bridge replacement program to remove the Oglesby bridge and use local funds to supplement additional work.

Neitzel made the initial motion, with Bacon offering the second.

During discussion Neitzel spoke up, saying that the city is constantly looking for financial help with its projects. She said she realized this was not a grant to the city, but she felt that it was money they could and should use.

Neitzel said she thought the city should use that money and make the bridge safe, and then maybe they wouldn't have to worry about it for another 10 years. However, Anderson and others quickly corrected Neitzel's perception of the situation, saying the bridge would be gone.

Anderson posed a question to Forgy, saying he had said there was the possibility of up to $100,000, but it could be less. Forgy confirmed that it could be zero or it could be anything up to that amount. He added that Aukamp had said he was favorable to giving the $100,000. It was also confirmed that the decision was not Aukamp's alone; the full county board would have to vote in favor of the request.

The last question before the vote came from Mayor Keith Snyder, who wondered if the city would have to purchase private property from local residents in order to build the prescribed cul-de-sac. Forgy said they would not as the street and right of way at the bridge are wide enough.

When the item was brought to a vote, this motion also failed with a vote of four in favor and five opposed. Those voting for the motion included Bacon, Tibbs, Hoinacki and Neitzel. Those voting against were Anderson, Horn, Carmitchel, O'Donohue and Armbrust. Armbrust was the sole alderman who voted against both motions.


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