Tuesday May 7, 2013

JAMAICA -- Plans for a bridge, which connects to Londonderry, that was wiped out by Tropical Storm Irene are still up in the air.

"FEMA will reimburse us to put it back (the way it was)," said Jamaica Selectboard member Paul Fraser, who handles much of the Irene related work within the town. "But (Agency of Natural Resources) says we must put it back properly."

He said there is about a $250,000 different between the two options and the town doesn’t have those funds.

Last week, the Jamaica Selectboard discussed ideas for handling the situation. FEMA is willing to give the town $250,000 to fix the Goodieville Road Bridge and restore it to the way it was before Irene destroyed it. But ANR and the Jamaica Selectboard feel that constructing the bridge the same way would make it susceptible to another disaster.

Fraser said FEMA will still give the same amount of money for an alternative project.

"That’s where we take money from one project and say we have another project," he said. "But before you can apply, you must have the other project in mind. We don’t have another project in mind. If we don’t put something there, we’re losing the money completely."

One recommendation includes turning the bridge into a walking bridge, which would connect the communities. It could fit bicycles and snowmobiles. Fraser said he believes that this potential project would come in under $250,000.


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"What are the neighbors saying about a foot bridge?" asked a member of the public.

"Residents prefer not to have a bridge there," said board member Lou Bruso. "Makes less traffic."

He said there will have to be a public meeting or board members will have to go house to house to discuss the possibility.

"Every time we pick up, there’s another glitch," said Fraser. "If we don’t put a road bridge over there and if Route 100 goes out, we don’t get to Londonderry for a couple of weeks."

He mentioned that Townshend recently won its second appeal against FEMA. The town’s argument was that construction of a culvert needed "to be done correctly."

Fraser said he’s writing a letter to FEMA explain that without this bridge, the communities would lose a link between the two towns, which would increase the time it takes emergency responders to get to homes near the Goodieville Road Bridge. It would take an additional two miles to get to those areas.

"I always felt that the Goodieville area is an island in itself," said Jamaica Fire Chief Dale West.

It was suggested that an alternative project be initiated that improved access to those areas nearest to the bridge.

"You cannot do an alternative project in the flood plain," said Fraser, referring to FEMA regulations. "And if we take a project and say we want to do it this way instead of the way they say and we don’t get permission, we jeopardize getting any money at all."

An idea that the Jamaica Selectboard had brought up at previous meetings had been speaking with the Londonderry Selectboard about the proposition of splitting the cost for reconstructing the bridge.

Chris Mays can be reached at 802-254-2311, ext. 273, or cmays@reformer.com. Follow Chris on Twitter @CMaysReformer.