Time is of the essence
Time is of the essence for the Friends of Bunker Mill Bridge (FBMB) in their efforts to save the Bunker Mill Bridge, which spans the English River between Kalona and Richmond. Several members of the group attended Tuesday morning’s meeting of the Washington County Board of Supervisors hoping they could buy the bridge in time to apply for grant funding.
What they accomplished after many ideas were discussed at the meeting is that the board will hold a special session at 9 a.m. Thursday, Oct. 10, in the county courthouse. If the board’s requirements are met, the county and the Friends may jointly own the bridge for about 30 days. Joint ownership could mean that the FBMB could meet the requirements of the grant.
Suzanne Micheau, managing director of FBMB, told the supervisors of the progress FBMB has made and asked the board to sell the bridge to the group that same day.
For much of the discussion there didn’t seem to be a way for FBMB to buy the bridge in time to apply for the grant. County Attorney Larry Brock said the group would need formal easements from the three landowners who own the ground the bridge sits on. A proposed purchase agreement would need to be changed so that the county would not be responsible for the bridge in the future.
Board chairman Steve Davis suggested the county end its easements and give them back to the landowners. FBMB could then purchase the bridge from the landowners.
“Get the county clear out of it,” he said.
County Engineer Jacob Thorius said the county couldn’t sell the bridge to FBMB that day because the bridge would become private property sitting on public right of way.
“I’m going to request them to get that off of public right of way because I’ve dealt with other landowners that are putting private property on public right of way — that’s not allowed per our codes.”
However, Thorius said that that is a question for the county attorney.
Micheau said that that information was new to FBMB.
“I don’t have any problem working with you to make sure everything is in line when we officially release the right of way,” Thorius said.
He then said the county couldn’t legally sell the bridge that day.
FBMB members tried to come up with ways to deal with the legalities so they could buy the bridge Tuesday.
Julie Bower of Grinnell has been helping FBMB and has worked to save other historic bridges.
“These people (FBMB) haven’t put all this work into this to not have the ability to move forward within the deadlines we know are coming regarding construction schedules, regarding grant opportunities, regarding everything else that we put into play,” she said.
Bower also said that if work begins soon the bridge could be fully restored and set back into place by Christmas.
Supervisor Bob Yoder said, “Right now is the time to work on these (bridge) projects. I’d like to figure out some way that we can get — so that you can apply for that grant without any delay.”
FBMB Secretary Doris Parks suggested the FBMB and the county co-own the bridge. That would allow the grant application to be done by Thursday, and after more discussion, that is the solution FBMB is going to attempt.
Brock said the group would need to bring in signed easements that are ready to record in the recorder’s office. He also said the supervisors would need to approve the grant application.
So the supervisors agreed to hold a special session Thursday morning to examine the grant application and make sure everything is in order before approving co-ownership.