DUMMERSTON -- After years of planning, town officials thought they finally were ready to proceed with a repair job at Dummerston's landmark covered bridge.
But Monday brought word of another delay that will push the project back for several weeks and could interfere with school-bus routes this fall.
"The Selectboard is extremely frustrated with the delays," board member Tom Bodett said. "But we understand . . . it's the nature of the beast."
The project involves replacement of "wing walls," described as support walls for approaches to the 140-year-old bridge over the West River. The work, funded in part by a $200,000 transportation enhancement grant, will necessitate the span's closure for a few months.
Town administrators thought they had in place a summer construction schedule that would reopen the bridge to buses and emergency vehicles before school began.
And, after the arrival of higher-than-expected bids, officials last week cobbled together a funding plan that would have covered the project's cost while still leaving some cash in the town's important West River Crossing Fund.
But the effort came to a halt when a contractor turned out to be unable to perform the work due to a bureaucratic mix-up, Bodett said.
"Our low bidder was pre-qualified to do work with the state," Bodett said. "Unbeknownst to him or us, it was for a different category of work."
So Selectboard members now will advertise for
The project must be advertised for three weeks. While Bodett was hopeful that delays can be minimized, he acknowledged that the repair job possibly could keep the bridge closed until after the school year begins.
"We tried to avoid that," he told fellow Selectboard members.
Board member Steve Glabach asked whether, given the latest delay, officials simply should push the project to 2013. He noted that the job now could overlap with fall-foliage tourism season.
More importantly, Glabach was concerned that the next round of construction bids could come in much higher.
"I'd hate to see us get into this and find out that we end up $50,000 or $60,000 more than we anticipated," he said, adding that the town could apply for more state funding for bridge work next year.
But Bodett pointed out that there's no guarantee the town would get that money.
And, while officials have said the bridge is structurally sound, Bodett said the eroded wing walls could jeopardize the span's approaches if another catastrophic storm strikes.
"There is some risk," he said.
Nonetheless, officials acknowledged that any additional delays could cause them to reject all construction bids and nix the project until 2013.
Bodett, though, is hoping that won't be the case.
"Barring any unforeseen, further complications, we plan to get this done this year," he said.
Mike Faher can be reached at email@example.com or 802-254-2311, ext. 275.