DUMMERSTON - Town officials had endured bureaucratic delays, cost concerns and bidding difficulties as they struggled to plan renovations for Dummerston's historic covered bridge.
In the end, though, the actual construction work was a breeze.
The span reopened this week after less than a month of work to repair an erosion problem, and officials are praising a Vernon contractor for getting the job done quickly and avoiding any further complications.
"Renaud Bros. finished way ahead of the deadline specified in their contract," said Dummerston Selectboard member Tom Bodett. "We really appreciate what the Renauds have done to get our bridge back in service ahead of the school buses," Bodett added.
That was a key concern: It appeared that the bridge closure would reroute buses for at least a few weeks.
Dummerston School Principal Jo Carol Ratti said school officials had discussed the issue at length with Brattleboro-based bus contractor First Student. The plan, Ratti said, had been to use smaller buses that could access the town's Green Iron Bridge farther south on Route 30.
While the bridge project would not have caused any major problems for school officials or students, "it's just better all around that it's completed," Ratti said.
The bus issue never would have arisen had it not been for delays in getting the project started. The town had landed a $200,000 transportation-enhancement grant, but the first round
Officials worked out a financing plan, but then they learned that the apparent low bidder could not perform the bridge work due to a bureaucratic mix-up.
The project was advertised a second time, and Renaud won the job by submitting a $234,820 bid. An additional state grant arrived to ensure all project costs would be covered.
Renaud began work on July 23 and reopened the bridge on Tuesday afternoon.
In addition to resolving any school-related issues, the sooner-than-anticipated reopening also means the public again can access a park-and-ride lot at the bridge's western entrance and a swimming area underneath.
Bodett said the project was not "easy." Rather, he said, "none of the things that could have gone wrong did."
"The anticipated 'surprises' such as large boulders to remove were not there," Bodett said in an e-mail to the Reformer. "Also, and this is my speculation, Renaud had enough equipment to work both ends of the bridge simultaneously without having to shuttle around through Brattleboro. I'm sure that saved a lot of time."
Bodett cited one additional factor.
"Face it, they're very good at what they do," he said of Renaud.
Mike Faher can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 802-254-2311,