7th Street bridge project extended to September 2020
City of Cassville project slowed by federal regulations
The 7th Street bridge has been troublesome since it was damaged in the December 2015 flood, as the bridge was repaired at that time, but excessive rains in June 2017 led to the bridge being torn down and closed.
In January, the city realized the project would cost more than the $198,329.15 originally expected and was still waiting on confirmation from FEMA and SEMA regarding reimbursement. The city of Cassville had also received a preliminary construction design, however, that was all dependent on the extension to start the project in April.
David Brock, city of Cassville public works director, said right now, progress on the project is slow.
“As far as the deadline, we have asked for and been approved for an extension through September 2020,” he said. “Part of that is the issue that the additional time is needed.”
Brock said FEMA told the city that the old structure could not be rebuilt as it was, because it would not meet the Corps of Engineering regulations.
“So, we hired an engineer that designed a structure that would meet the appropriate regulations, but that would cost more money,” he said. “In order to get additional funds, we put in a formal request for a change in scope or an expansion of the project this last spring.”
Brock said in April, FEMA denied the request for a change in scope for the larger project.
“FEMA gave three or four issues that they said justified not changing the amount of the claim, and in the first part of July, we submitted an appeal,” he said. “We are arguing the points made by FEMA, but there is nothing specific on when they will respond.”
Brock said the last he had heard, which was about two weeks ago, was that SEMA had not yet transmitted the city’s appeal to FEMA.
“It may take another 60-90 days before we learn what the outcome is going to be,” he said. “As of January, the total estimated cost for the project was $198,329, but now in construction, we are looking at about $200,000.”
Brock said construction is the biggest cost involved, but there are typically other expenses as well.
“The openings on the old structure wouldn’t allow the minimum volume that was required federally,” he said. “The state regulations cover the aquatic life movement, as the stream bed is supposed to be natural enough for aquatic life to travel up or down stream.”
Brock said with the new extension date, the funds have to be obligated by Septembr 2020, which means bids have been awarded for construction.
“That means construction may not actually be started by that date,” he said. “But, that we will have to be through the bidding process and have selected a contractor and awarded the bid.”
Brock said he feels confident in the appeal process.
“The biggest issue that was cited by FEMA in the change of scope is that we did not go to the Corps of Engineers with a permit to rebuild the old structure and then get denied for that,” he said. “Even though FEMA advised against rebuilding the old structure, we were expected to still try to rebuild the old structure and get turned down by the Corps of Engineers so that we would have the documentation of denial of a permit to show.”
Brock said the city was able to get a statement in writing from the Corps of Engineers that said they would not approve a permit to rebuild the old structure because it does not meet the regulations for minimum flows.
“I think we have that main issue resolved now,” he said. “I do remain confident that we will get the project done, but I am just as frustrated as everyone else at the pace.”