County ‘bombshell’: 47 bridges found unsafe for buses

Marion County commissioners said they had a ?bombshell? dropped on them at their Monday meeting when they were told the county has 47 bridges unsafe for a school bus to cross.

Milton Lowmaster, of the county?s bridge-inspection consulting firm of Cook, Flatt and Strobel came by the meeting unexpected, and asked for 10 minutes to impart the news.

Lowmaster said he had been putting together similar information based on an original request from Wilson County.

Under questioning from the commissioners, Lowmaster said bridge inspections, which usually cost counties around $40 per bridge, normally are done to see if the bridges fall below a rating of 50 percent sufficiency to see if they qualify for state and federal funding.

?It doesn?t necessarily mean they aren?t safe to cross,? he said.

Commissioner Randy Dallke said that with the magnitude of the news, he was disappointed Lowmaster hadn?t asked for placement on the commission agenda more quickly for a full discussion of the matter.

?Commission Chairman Bob Hein confirmed with Dallke that he doesn?t recall any instance in which the commission was told that many bridges were unsafe for school buses.

Road and Bridge Director John Summerville was called back into the meeting, and was directed to work with Holub to notify school districts and review bus routes.

Lowmaster possessed a map with the faulty bridges marked.

The commissioners discussed how the heavier modern farm equipment, such as bigger tractors, implements and trucks, including 18-wheelers, might be expected to break the bridges down faster.

?What are we going to do, close roads?? Dallke asked.

He suggested the commissioners may want a second engineering firm to assess the bridges and previous reports.

On another road and bridge matter, the commissioners named Mark Heiser to a newly created position as section foreman to split responsibilities with Summerville in lieu of hiring any new road and bridge director.

Heiser will be in charge of road graders and specific road construction projects.

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