Historic Wooden Bridge
Courtesy of Dan Pool, Pickens County Progress
Jasper Mayor John Weaver said Monday the city fully intends to repair the wooden bridge north of downtown, but will do so only when funds are available.
“It’s as safe as it was when we closed it to vehicle traffic,” Weaver said. “There is another way to reach the area across the bridge. It is a little inconvenient to the people who live across it, and I apologize. But there is no way we can do it now without raising taxes.”
Estimated cost of repair is $80,000, but the county and Georgia DOT have both offered to put up some funding to help the city pay for the fix.
Weaver said several people have told him “to go get a grant.” But he said a grant is hardly possible with the state also cutting back due to the present slow economy.
At this point, the state is only giving money for something absolutely necessary to transportation, Weaver said. The DOT has indicated they will provide some funding to fix the bridge but not the whole amount.
Weaver said the city is not in a position to borrow the money either. City and county governments need to repay all loans by the end of the year, something Jasper couldn’t do this year with one loan, he said.
“Every penny we have is lined up,” he said. “The bridge is not in the 2008 budget.”
He said 2008 had been a tough year economically for all of North Georgia.
“In the last couple of years, with strong economic times, we could have handled it,” he said. “But currently the cash flow doesn’t indicate that we will have $80,000 for the bridge this year.”
Weaver said he has had offers of outside money and is willing to discuss those. He and city hall staff have also looked at some fundraising possibilities.
Weaver said the city does not have a timeline for repair, but that it wouldn’t be done before the October Marble Festival. “That’s only a month away,” he said.
Weaver said the first step is for the city to gain ownership of the bridge. The city met with the railroad company that owns the bridge last week, and the mayor expected to have a quit claim signed some time this week. The city must be the owner of the bridge to use government funds for the repair.
“It looks like everything will be okay with the ownership,” he said.
Next, Weaver said the city will have to find a contractor, firm up costs, and then it’s back to seeing that the $80,000 is in place before work begins.
Weaver said he understands that many people want the city to rush into the project, but that any work “without planning and budgeting would be irresponsible.”