Special Road District (SSRD) was anything but regular.
Attending the meeting were several district residents, most of them Amish, concerned about the low-water crossing over the Finley River on Finley Falls Road, located about three miles southwest of Seymour.
“We just don’t feel safe crossing the river there,” an Amish man told SSRD board members Doug Johnson and Mark Nichols, as well as Tony Boring, the road district’s foreman.
“We just feel that crossing won’t need a lot of work to make it safer.”
He noted that an engineer recently gave the SSRD three options for the landmark crossing:
1. Build a straight slab over the falls, which has a price tag of $70,000.
2. Build a straight slab with four pipes in it. Cost of this project is roughly $118,000.
3. Build a single-lane bridge over the top of the river, located slightly above (west of) the falls. Estimated cost for the bridge is $329,000.
“You also need to realize that the north side of the bridge is a bit swampy, so it would have to be reinforced, and that adds to the cost,” Nichols added.
Board members and Boring noted that building a bridge over the Finley River at Finley Falls would be a very expensive project. They also said there are concerns that the project could become a hazard in the future.
“There is no cheap option to fix this,” Nichols said.
“Looking at what you’re wanting with a new bridge at that site, it would take a tax increase or a lot of saving to pay for it. That ($329,000) figure actually is about twice that amount if we did what you are wanting us to do.”
Amish residents expressed worries about their horse-drawn buggies using the current crossing, as well as their children walking across the crossing to attend school.
Boring said the first option, a straight slab for $70,000, wouldn’t fix the issue.
“A slab’s not a good choice ... if the water is running 3 feet across the crossing now, then it will run 3 feet across the slab once it’s up,” he explained.
Regarding the second option, a slab with four pipes, Boring said that project would work until the pipes were stopped up with debris, which would happen with any big rain.
“It wouldn’t take long for those pipes to get clogged up,” he said.
Boring said the third option, a bridge, likely is a project that would cost between $750,000 and $1 million.
“Before Gary Hale died, he gave a 60-foot right of way (to the SSRD) southwest of the falls,” he said. “But if we built there, if we build the bridge the people want, then we are looking at nearly a million dollars when it’s all done.”
At the meeting, which started at 3:30 p.m. last Tuesday, July 7, several members of the Amish community offered to build a new bridge, volunteering their labor.
“The thing is, it would cost $50,000 just to engineer a bridge like that,” Boring said.
“It’s just not a realistic project. It’s just not feasible; there is no money out there. And I do think that the residents (at the July 7 meeting) see that.”
He noted that the SSRD’s annual budget is less than $1 million. Besides Boring, his staff includes only four total employees — two grader operators and two truck drivers.
“It’s just more than we can afford,” Boring said of building a bridge.
“We just can’t allot that kind of money,” Nichols added. “Fact is, we don’t have it.”
“We understand where the residents are coming from,” Boring said. “At the same time, we’re in a quandary on this. We can’t promise what we can’t do.”
He added that the SSRD doesn’t expect the Webster County Road Department to assist with the project. Boring noted that through the state’s fuel-tax funded County Aid Road Trust (C.A.R.T.) funding, the SSRD receives 15.77 percent of the county’s C.A.R.T. money because it maintains 15.77 percent of the county’s rural roads.
“I’ve got the best working relationship I’ve ever had in 30 years with the three commissioners on the county commission,” Boring said. “If I need something, they always do what they can do to help. I can name several projects where they’ve chipped in and helped us out when they didn’t have to help us, but they did.
“This bridge isn’t their issue.”
But Boring did say the issue needs further discussion.
One option unveiled by Amish residents at the July 7 meeting was building a bridge that didn’t allow vehicles, only horse-drawn buggies.
“That’s not an answer,” Boring said.
“Under that (plan), cars and trucks still would have to make a trek to Finley Falls and to a crossing that has a lot of issues.”
Over the next 30 days, he said that he and the three-person SSRD board will consider a wide variety of options for solutions at the crossing.
Boring added that residents of the area also will likely consider alternative solutions.
Those ideas will be discussed at the next SSRD meeting, set for 3:30 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 4, at the district’s headquarters on Center Avenue, just east of the Seymour Elementary School.
The public is invited to attend this open meeting.
“Next month, we plan to start talking seriously about the realistic options at this crossing,” Boring said.
“I hope that anyone interested is there for the (Aug. 4) meeting.”