HURON – Cash-strapped Belle Prairie Township supervisors are asking Beadle County for help in replacing an aging bridge with either a new one or substituting it with four culverts.
The bridge is on 415th Avenue, which township clerk Fran Fritz said “is an artery for our little township.”
Supervisors met with county commissioners Tuesday to ask for help for a bridge project. After an inspection, the recommendation was to close it because of damage caused by water.
But anything the township attempts – from engineering to bridge replacement to culvert installation and even an opt out – is more than it can afford.
“We don’t have the money,” Fritz said. “What we need and what we can possibly do are two different things.”
Belle Prairie Township is a major agriculture area for the county and its roads and bridges are critical for moving equipment and commodities, she said. It’s no secret that the agriculture economy is struggling right now, she said.
Fritz said the township officials are willing to split the costs by, for example, paying for the materials if the county would provide the labor to install the culverts.
“We want to work with you. We just need some help,” she said.
Township residents are going to be meeting to discuss a possible tax opt out, she said.
Commission Chairman Denny Drake said Belle Prairie is not the only township facing problems with its bridges. The county also has a number of bridges needing attention.
He said they need to figure out how they can access other government money. Townships and the county could also seek Federal Emergency Management Agency funding if a damage assessment qualifies for it.
Supervisors said the township is asked to maintain bridges that are used by many people who don’t reside there.
“Our resources are taxed, too,” said Commissioner Rick Benson. “It’s a monumental problem, it really is.”
Fritz said she hopes it doesn’t take a serious accident or the fact that products can’t get to town to get the attention of funding sources.
She stressed that the bridge is on a heavily traveled artery.
“We’re not talking about a road in the middle of nowhere,” she said.
In other business, commissioners met with Ken Dickson and Linn Dickson concerning a bridge spanning Pearl Creek in Pearl Creek Township.
Township resident Mike Bartholow recently encouraged the board to no longer pursue state funding to replace the bridge, saying it is on a minimum maintenance road where there was little traffic when the bridge was open. Funding could be better used on other projects, he said.
Commissioners passed a resolution asking the state Department of Transportation to delete the century-old steel bridge from the list of bridges scheduled to be replaced with state and county funding. Highway Superintendent Merl Hanson had recommended its abandonment. After meeting with the Dicksons, commissioners agreed to hold onto the resolution pending more discussions with Hanson.
The Dicksons asked why the commission would act after hearing one resident’s opinion when there were many others trying to make a living in the area who would use the bridge if replaced. They argued that it is not on a minimum maintenance road.
The bridge was to receive FEMA funding after 2011 flooding and they questioned where that money went. That will be one of the issues commissioners will check out.
The Dicksons said the bridge wasn’t condemned, but was damaged by water and ice. Otherwise, it would be open today, they said.
“I’m not saying it’s not old, but a lot of bridges are old,” Linn Dickson said.
Meanwhile, commissioners also heard a report from community health nurses.
There are 850 people on the Women’s, Infants and Children’s (WIC) program, or about 100 more than other community health nurse clinics in the area.
At a recent meeting, they said they learned that Dakota Provisions expects to bring in 268 new families between now and two years from now. Housing will be a major concern.