Save the Riverside Bridge effort moves forward with Christian County Commission meeting

Kris Dyer, director of Save the Riverside Bridge, recently attended a meeting of the Christian County Commission about the bridge issue. Dyer's report i

Riverside Bridge, Ozark, MO
Riverside Bridge, Ozark, MO
s below.

The Save the Riverside Bridge effort is interesting in itself and deserves our support.  The vision is to renovate the Riverside Bridge, near Ozark, Missouri, for pedestrian/bicycle use to connect with the Ozark trail system.  But in addition, this effort is a great example of how local neighbors can work together to bring input to local government agencies, affect decisions, and improve the local environment for bicycling and walking.

Our governmental leaders are often very willing to find ways to support bicycling and walking.  But they need to know that people--voters, community members, community leaders--support them in their efforts.

Find out how to make your local advocacy efforts more effective in our Advocacy 101 section.

Dyer's report:

Christian County Commission Meeting Thurs Dec 13th 2012
Written by Kris Dyer, Save Riverside Bridge Director

I attended the meeting and this is written from my perspective and the notes I took

In attendance at the meeting from those I knew were:
Christian County Commissioners - Lou Lapaglia, Bill Barnett, Ray Weter
Great River Engineering - Spencer Jones
Ozark Special Road District (OSRD) - Scott Bilyeu, John Elkins, Keith Robinette
Christian County Attorney - John Housley
City of Ozark - Mayor Shane Nelson, City Administrator Steve Childers
Christian County Treasurer - Karen Matthews
Headliner News - Donna Osborn
Springfield Newsleader - Rance Burger
Save Riverside Bridge Initiative - Kris Dyer

Spencer Jones (County voted earlier this year to have him be the engineer for the Riverside Bridge project) was the main speaker and gave a slideshow presentation  The main point of his presentation was to ask the County, OSRD, and the City to all come together for the Riverside Bridge project and have a partnering intergovernmental agreement. Jones also said there's been a lot of confusion as to who owns the bridge and wanted to clear the air. Jones said by the advice of the County attorney, John Housley, that the county has given over the bridge to OSRD. I asked "on what grounds?" and Housley explained that OSRD has a statute that says they have jurisdiction and I responded that I understood that OSRD has a statute on their side but the County also has a statute saying they own it as well so how was it decided? Then Lou Lapaglia stepped in and said to me "well, I had 2 conversations with you 6 months ago and told you that we gave the bridge to OSRD" and I said "no you never told me that and the first time I heard of it was yesterday in the paper". 

Jones also said there has never been an official formal request made to SEMA/FEMA asking if a new bridge could be built on the West side of the Riverside Bridge on the old Riverside Inn restaurant land and I said "I thought that the county had asked and were declined in the past?" and Lapaglia explained that he had asked FEMA and those involved personally and they had told him no. It's very important that a written request is made because in order to save the Riverside Bridge and leave it where it's at for pedestrian use the new bridge must be built next to it to the West on that land. Jones felt confident that they could get the approval from FEMA/SEMA but if it did fail then they would move on to Plan B to see what else could be done to build their new bridge and save the old one. At some point in the meeting Ray Weter said that if it's declined then it might be a good idea for the bridge preservation people go to Washington to make a request.

Jones asked the City if they would be in support of the partnership with the County and OSRD and Mayor Shane Nelson said he is in support of the Riverside Bridge but would have to talk to the City Council first before agreeing to a partnership . Jones said that it really does involve all three entities because it affects Ozark not getting as much tax money since people are not coming into Ozark to shop that live across the river and are instead going to Springfield.

Then Jones asked OSRD if they would be a part of the partnership and they too said they would have to get with their board for approval. OSRD started talking quite a bit about the tax money that they didn't get from the County but someone in the crowd spoke up and said "I thought this meeting is supposed to be about the Riverside bridge?" and that seemed to stop the tax talk. OSRD's Elkins also spoke about how they had a meeting back in June of this year at the OC and had planned on taking the old bridge out and putting in a low water crossing in the same place. Elkins said that the paper has made him out to look like he wants to tear down the Riverside Bridge but that's not his intention.

Elkins talked about how they would give a group enough time to move the bridge and I said "how much time?" and he said he didn't know how much time and would depend on certain things". Then later on OSRD said their original plans from their June meeting was to have the old bridge taken out and new one put in by Spring of 2013 and I said "how is that giving us enough time?" and he didn't answer. Jones explained in detail to OSRD that there are a lot of procedures they would have to go through before they can just take the old bridge out and put in a low water crossing and mentioned how they have to get a permit that takes 6 months to get, go through Section 106 due to the bridge being on the Historic Register, and so forth. OSRD continued to say they thought they still could have had it done by Spring of 2013. 

Also, during the meeting I asked "since the County received almost $100,000 in Federal BRO funds in 2010 to have Matthews Engineering make plans for the new bridge, then what does this mean now that it wasn't actually the County's bridge in the first place?" and Jones replied that it didn't matter who owned the bridge to receive BRO funds (I believe that's what he said) and seemed to indicate it wasn't a problem. I asked because I wanted to make sure that money wouldn't have to be paid back since the County said OSRD actually has jurisdiction over the Riverside Bridge now.

Someone mentioned fixing up the bridge for automobile use again and Jones said that the County would have to pay back 20% of that $100,000 they received from BRO funds in order to do that and even if they did do that and repaired it then it would only be a bandade fix. I said that there are a lot of historic bridges in the US that were in bad shape and renovated and used for automobile use again and were not just a bandade fixe so it is possible. I told him on behalf of the Martens that live next to the bridge they want the Riverside bridge fixed and opened back up for vehicle traffic instead of building a new one and it would be a lot cheaper to do that and I think I heard a lady say "yeah" and the lady next me was nodding in support.

The County attorney, Housley, mentioned something about how the County can't use CART money for the bridge. Then Karen Matthews spoke up and said that she found out that the county's "bridge fund" is actually CART money and they used that money for the Jenkins and Riverdale bridges in the past and she wanted to know why since Housley is now saying it shouldn't have been used for bridges? Then Housley explained the CART money but because I don't know much about this issue so I don't have many details.

At the end of the meeting I said "I talked to Ray Weter the other day and he told me that OSRD is responsible for the Ozark mill bridge (the one next to the Ozark Mill in the park)" and Weter stepped in and said "actually, I found out that isn't the case that they are not responsible for it". I asked who is and Steve Childers from the City said the City isn't and then Ray Weter said "it's an orphan". I then said "well, we need to find out who owns it because the paper said it's deficient and needs to be replaced so someone needs to repair it!". They concluded that OSRD, the City, nor the County knows who is over the Ozark Mill Bridge (McCracken St Bridge). The mill bridge is Ozark's icon and is very important to our community so I will be finding out from MoDot who owns it and has jurisdiction over that bridge so that hopefully it will be repaired. I found out this information that it's deemed deficient from a Newsleader article put out on Dec 5th 2012. The article states that it was last inspected in 2009 so I'm not sure if this is when it was deemed deficient and since none of the entities knows who owns the bridge I wonder if there has not been any repair work done on it for a long time? The article states that the Government over it is "County (Ozark Special Road District)" so apparently that was wrong information in the article so I don't know how much is correct? The weight limit needs to be dropped immediately on that bridge though since the article states that the inspection said it has a load capacity of 8.9 tons, which should have been immediately dropped after the inspection came out. I don't know what the weight capacity sign is on the bridge but I'm sure it's listed as more than that. This is why our bridges are becoming deficient because they are not properly maintained and let go for years.

I think the meeting was good because Jones was trying to clear the air on some issues. Now we are waiting to find out if the City and OSRD will agree to come together with the County to be a part of an intergovernmental partnership for the bridge project. I also think that it's good that a written formal agreement will be submitted to FEMA/SEMA because this is something that should have been done a long time ago since that land has been such a roadblock to where they want to put their new bridge. Now I am not certain who will be submitting it because they didn't specify.

Kris Dyer
Director of Save the Riverside Bridge Initiative

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