BELLOWS FALLS -- Municipal Manager Timothy Cullenen had some bad news for the Rockingham Selectboard at Tuesday's meeting.
Cullenen said he has learned from the Vermont League of Cities and Towns, Rockingham's insurance carrier, that the non-profit organization will cover just more than $230,000 worth of the damage Tropical Storm Irene when it destroyed the Bartonsville Covered Bridge last year. He said the number comes from VLCT's interpretation of the insurance policy.
Cullenen, in the Rockingham Town Hall Lower Theatre, said the bridge is insured for up to $1 million. VLCT's initial figure of $197,000 was revised to the current number.
"This means there is still well over $700,000 they say is not covered by insurance," Cullenen told Selectboard members, most of whom were visibly frustrated with the news. "We are having a meeting with them (in Montpelier) on Monday. Phil Pearce (of engineering and construction firm Clough Harbour & Associates) will be joining us. It is going to be an interesting conversation, to say the least."
He said whatever is not covered by insurance, in theory, may be covered by FEMA monies.
"FEMA is not committal at this point either because they feel that if the bridge was insured, there is a commitment by the insurer to pay their fair share," Cullenen said. "At this point I don't think it's going to impact the construction schedule but it could be a rather sticky conversation over the next
When Selectboard member Matthew Trieber asked Cullenen what VCLT's rationale was, the municipal manager said the insurance policy covers only the bridge's structure -- and not the roadways leading up the bridge.
"It would appear that what they are willing to cover is simply the siding and the metal roof," Cullenen said. "Any of the truss work, I guess, they are interpreting as part of the roadway."
"That sounds structural to me," Selectboard member Stefan Golec chimed in.
Cullenen then said the Worrall Covered Bridge had $700,000 of coverage. He said there was about $7,000 of engineering conducted and a work platform that needed to be built -- in order to do the inspections, clear the damage and get it repaired -- which cost about $60,000.
"VLCT is also claiming that the work platform is not covered and we will be discussing that with them as well," he said.
Finance Officer Chip Stearns, sitting in the first row of seats, said the town does not have a project worksheet with FEMA for the work platform.
Selectboard member Josh Hearne asked if the board should seek different insurance coverage for the town's bridges if these kinds of hassles occur in the future.
Cullenen said a special memorial event commemorating the anniversary of Tropical Storm Irene and the beginning of construction on a new Bartonsville Bridge, which was destroyed by the storm, is planned for Tuesday, Aug. 28. The event will also serve as a celebration of reconstruction and recovery efforts.
He said it will start at 4 p.m. at the site of the bridge. He said he has reached out to Vermont Sens. Bernie Sanders and Patrick Leahy as well as Gov. Peter Shumlin and he hopes to have other VIPs attend the event.
Cullenen told Selectboard members he has received a very preliminary timeframe for the bridge's construction. The Selectboard awarded the project to Cold River Bridges, in Walpole, N.H., at a meeting in early June.
"They are hoping to begin with truss fabrication and truss abutments, this will be what they're actually constructing the bridge on, next to the temporary bridge," he said. "We're still hoping for mid-August to begin, so we may be seeing some activity by the 28th."
He said the firm is looking to shut down the temporary bridge and begin its removal in November. The best case scenario is that the bridge opens in mid-January.
Domenic Poli can be reached at email@example.com, or 802-254-2311, ext. 277.