NEWFANE -- In the aftermath of Tropical Storm Irene's severe flooding, town officials were not sure Lynch Bridge should be rebuilt.
Now, though, the finished bridge is counted as the town's latest step toward recovery from the August 2011 storm -- even though the project's financing is an ongoing matter.
"The completion of something like Lynch Bridge is a milestone," said Gary Katz, Selectboard chairman.
Irene's flooding destroyed homes, roads and bridges including Hunter Brook Bridge and Lynch Bridge, both of which were situated in the hard-hit Dover Road corridor.
Hunter Brook Bridge was replaced by a temporary span, and a new, permanent bridge was completed at that site in November under a $424,153 contract with Walpole, N.H.-based Cold River Bridges.
Newfane Selectboard last year awarded a $536,886 contract to Vernon-based Renaud Bros. Inc. to replace Lynch Bridge. But the project was pushed back until spring of this year.
In April, officials noted that permits had been obtained for the job, and the project progressed quickly after that. Todd Lawley, a Selectboard member and the town's road foreman, reported last week that "Lynch Bridge is now done and open, and we'll be having the final meeting with the contractor."
That marks the end of a long and winding road for a relatively small bridge project. Because the span served just one private property, some Newfane officials had favored acquiring that parcel and not replacing the bridge: Instead, they reasoned, federal disaster funding earmarked for Lynch Bridge could be used for other town-improvement projects.
A detailed list of such projects was drawn up and submitted to the federal government. But that proposal ended in November 2012 when voters, at a special meeting, nixed the property purchase.
That same night, Selectboard members said they would proceed with replacement of Lynch Bridge.
"Having that bridge completed at least now creates the possibility that the property can be reused or sold," Katz said.
As with other Irene-related projects, Newfane officials must wait for federal reimbursement of Lynch Bridge costs even though construction payments are due now.
In May, the Selectboard authorized a $250,000 loan to cover some of those payments until reimbursement is available. Loan repayment is due in November.
The Selectboard is expected to soon consider another $150,000 loan for the Lynch project, once again to cover expenses while the town's reimbursement request is processed.
The loans total $400,000. The project's remaining cost was for the Lynch Bridge beams, which were fabricated last year and already have been paid for, officials said.
In a related matter, officials reported that crews have finished demolition of flood-damaged structures on all three properties that the town has purchased through a federally-funded buyout program.
The properties are on Dover Road, Stratton Hill Road and Hickey Road. The town soon may close on the purchase of another Irene-damaged parcel on Dover Road.
Mike Faher can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 802-254-2311, ext. 275.