Jamaica to get another shot at federal and state funding for bridge replacement


JAMAICA -- A new, higher cost estimate could open the door for state and federal funding for the Goodevale Bridge.

On Feb. 24, Peter Holden, of Holden Engineering and Surveying Incorporated, spoke with the Selectboard about his estimate for the project, which came in higher than the estimate from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. The new number could make FEMA reconsider its position on the bridge.

"What we found was a lot of municipalities had a municipal grant they were applying for. A lot of the time, the number isn’t large enough to get the receiving grant," said Holden. "When designing the bridge, they find they are short so the project doesn’t go anywhere. We’ve seen this over and over again."

Holden told the Jamaica Selectboard that his company just finished bridges in Halifax and Lincoln. Holden Engineering recently developed a process to help towns assemble the documents necessary to qualify for outside funding. Holden created a document that outlines project costs to guide towns through the process.

Goodevale Bridge, which was severely damaged during Tropical Storm Irene, was taken apart and set to the side.

"I had an engineer go there and we figured out different scenarios," said Holden. "It’s a little different than just replacing a bridge."

The town had applied for a FEMA grant, in which the projected cost to replace the bridge was estimated to be approximately $500,000. Holden’s group replicated FEMA’s analysis to repair rather than replace the bridge, which seemed to be just over $200,000. It would not be enough for FEMA to agree to replace it.

"My understanding is if they determined the cost is more than half the cost to repair, they’ll actually replace the bridge," he said. "There were things FEMA forgot. There were a lot of things they didn’t have."

Taking care of debris and installing guardrails were two items believed to be missing. In FEMA’s evaluation, the price to repair the bridge while still standing was not included. Another major item that was missed was lead paint removal. A painting company told Holden it would cost approximately $70,000. If not done properly, the Environmental Protection Agency could take up issue with the removal.

"We ended up with $290,000. That’s more than 50 percent, so they should be willing to pay for a new bridge," said Holden.

The remainder of the money could perhaps be obtained from the Vermont Agency of Transportation, said Holden. Steel beams would have to be replaced and if the bridge was lengthened to reach from bank to bank, a structures grant from AOT could be applied for.

Holden suggested the town take the new cost estimates to FEMA.

"I think they are certainly in the business of giving away money. That’s their job. I don’t think they try to cheat you out of a bridge," he said. "I just don’t think they think of all these things."

Town Treasurer Terri Bills Garland spoke of the town’s recent efforts with FEMA. She said a lot of the numbers that were produced since FEMA’s evaluation would push it over the 50 percent threshold.

"We’ve been trying to get them to say the southern abutment needs to be replaced, where they’ve said it needs to be repaired," she continued. "They have to decide because ANR (Agency of Natural Resources) says it needs to be longer. That has been one of the sticking points in a lot of towns. ANR’s not letting towns have pre-disaster (bridge lengths)."

Selectboard member Paul Fraser mentioned recent appeals with FEMA. One in Halifax resulted in reimbursement for the lengthening portion of the project, which FEMA previously denied to the town but ANR required.

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


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