Fate of Historic Washington County Bridge Undecided
By Brady Smith, Anchor/Reporter
WASHINGTON COUNTY, Iowa - The saga continues for the historic Bunker Mill Bridge that burned earlier this month just outside of Kalona.
Washington County, which owns the bridge, is trying to get public input on what to do with it. But the county's board of supervisors says action needs to be taken soon, whether that means tearing the bridge down, or moving it to another site.
"You hate to see nice old bridges like this get destroyed, but in today's time with traffic and weightloads, they just don't serve a purpose anymore," said Washington County Engineer Jacob Thorius on Wednesday.
Thorius and the City of Kalona are still trying to figure out if saving this old structure is possible. For the city, the big obstacle is funding.
"It would have to come up with a plan that would have the support of the community before there would be a financial stake," said City Administrator Ryan Schlabaugh, who told us the city will be reaching out to the local chamber of commerce to see if anyone has an interest in preserving it.
"The biggest thing is really to see what the public wants."
However, with the bridge still standing in its damaged condition, it's a liability for the county.
"We can only police and patrol this as best we can, but we can't keep everybody off it. Sooner or later there will be kids out climbing on it, creating a safety issue," Thorius explained.
That creates a time crunch for this piece of history. Thorius is exploring the possibility of flying it in two pieces to the Kalona Historical Village, where it would be used as a way to cross a nearby culvert.
"I know the National Guard has helped with other situations like this in the past, and they've done it for free as a training mission," Thorius said. But with the National Guard dealing with budget cuts of its own, demolition - not preservation - seems to be the more likely future for the Bunker Mill Bridge.
Thorius said the county is getting quotes from local contractors for demolition costs; he estimates the cost would be around $70,000 to tear it down.
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