E. Hightower Trail bridge closed indefinitely for fix

Photo by Michael Buckelew

Photo by Michael Buckelew

SOCIAL CIRCLE -- The bridge at East Hightower Trail spanning the CSX rail line in Social Circle has been damaged and has been closed until repairs can be made.

City Manager Doug White said repairs and upgrades to the bridge had already been scheduled, but the city was forced to close the bridge after a tractor-trailer crashed into the guard rails while attempting to turn onto the bridge that leads to some of the city's larger industries.

"Another truck hit (the bridge) Sunday night," White advised the City Council during its monthly meeting Tuesday. "The guard rail on the west side has been (bent) and the decking plate bends when cars cross the bridge. We decided to close it until repairs can be made."

White said the repairs to the bridge will involve replacing the decking, guard rails and head walls on each end.

White recommended the City Council approve allocating remaining sales tax revenue to pay for the repairs.

He explained that the city has $516,900 remaining from a previous special purpose local option sales tax. The city had already approved $180,000 to be paid to CSX Railroad as a deposit for hiring a flagman while the railroad conducted repairs to the rail line under the bridge.

"We have been told we will get a fair amount of that CSX money back," White said.

White said the contract with Rogers Bridge Company for the bridge repair is for $595,978.

The total cost for those two projects is $775,978 -- $259,078 more than what is available in the older SPLOST account.

White said the Georgia Department of Transportation has also required the city remove and replace the lead-based paint from the bridge, at a cost of $112,000.

"They (GDOT) have said they will give us this amount if we give up any local road projects for the next three years," he said. "We've paved most of the roads we needed to, so I think this is a pretty good tradeoff."

This would leave $147,078 remaining to pay for the bridge repairs, White said.

The city manager then turned to the recent SPLOST, which is to sunset in 2011 and has a balance of $650,115. He recommended the council approve $270,660 to install sidewalks along Carver Drive, Beech Avenue, a portion of Oak Drive and North Dogwood Avenue.

He also recommended the city approve spending $80,000 -- the required 20 percent match for a GDOT transportation grant -- to construct a sidewalk along North Cherokee Road from Pinnacle Bank to the Blue Willow Inn.

Once funds for these projects are allocated, it would leave approximately $299,455 remaining in the current SPLOST fund. White said the city could use $147,000 from this balance to pay for the East Hightower Bridge repairs.

"This takes care of the bridge, the original T-grant for sidewalks and Phase I of the sidewalks in downtown," White said.

He added that he would recommend the city hold onto the $152,377 that would remain in the current SPLOST account in the event other projects would be required before another SPLOST referendum is held.

The City Council made three motions -- to allocate money for the bridge repair; to approve the contract with ISC Inc. to install sidewalks; and to enter into a bid with GDOT for a grant to install sidewalks on North Cherokee Road -- all of which were approved unanimously.

White said Wednesday that a date to begin the repairs has not been scheduled since CSX will be coordinating the work based on the availability of their personnel.

In other news, the City Council accepted a bid for $48,549 with Clean Air Concepts to install an exhaust system at the city's fire station. Public Safety Director Tom Fox said Clean Air Concepts' bid was about $4,000 higher than the lowest bidder, EMS Specialty Equipment. He recommended, however, the city use Clean Air Concepts since it has been in business for 15 years and EMS has been in business for only two years.

A $47,500 grant will be used for this work. The city is required to provide a 5 percent match, so the council approved moving $2,500 from the city's general fund to pay for the project.