GUILFORD—“We acknowledge that this is a pretty serious burden on the people on the other side of the bridge,” Selectboard Chair Sheila Morse said at the Aug. 8 regular Board meeting.
It was the first time the Board had met since the Aug. 4 announcement of the extended end-date for the Green River covered bridge detour.
When construction began on the bridge, the planned date to reopen it to pedestrian and vehicular traffic was no later than Aug. 26. This date was selected to minimize travelers’ inconvenience and to allow the bus to pick up children living on the west side of the bridge once school started again.
Now, town officials say the bridge will reopen Sept. 30.
During construction, workers found extensive rot to the bridge’s chords — important truss supports — and all parties urged the town to sign off on making those repairs as part of this project, rather than later, to ensure safety.
Fixing the chords will cost the town about $24,000.
The money isn’t as much of an issue as the trouble. “Thankfully, [Katie Buckley, town administrator] had put in for it in the budget,” Morse said, noting the contingency cushion Buckley built into the project’s estimated costs.
Some residents have complained to the town. While Board members expressed their regrets — including Gabriella Ciufredda, who lives on the west side of the bridge — they admitted there wasn’t much they could do.
Ciufredda told the Board Buckley is meeting with Guilford school officials to work out a plan for getting the schoolchildren over the bridge and back again every day so they can meet the bus, as long as a supervising adult is with them.
“The idea is to stop construction” so the kids can cross, she said. “When we have the final plans we’ll announce that,” Ciufredda said.
Board members encouraged the public to bring their ideas for mitigating the inconvenience to town officials.
“If there’s anything we’re legally and safely able to do ... we’ll consider public suggestions,” Ciufredda said.
But there won’t be a pedestrian bridge.
“We sympathize with [those on the west side of the bridge], but we can’t allow people to walk across the bridge during construction,” because of safety, liability, and OSHA concerns, Ciufredda said.
Although Board member Dick Clark advocated construction of a temporary pedestrian bridge downstream, on private property, and said a former state official gave the town permission to build one, Ciufredda assured Clark that wasn’t going to happen.
“The issues are: it’s private property, it’s wetlands, there’s stream permits, and it’s not ADA-accessible,” Ciufredda said, adding, “I don’t think the town’s insurance carrier will cover it."
“This is not in the realm of possibility,” Ciufredda said, noting, “the town can’t endorse an illegal bridge."