A confused and garbled selectboard meeting began on Monday with at least 15 minutes of discombobulation as the online broadcast cut in and out.
After several false starts, when the Charlotte Selectboard’s hastily called special meeting at the Charlotte Library finally got rolling, one message came through loud and clear: The board needed to do something about a Dorset Street bridge.
On Tuesday morning, April 25, the town discovered there was a large hole in the bridge and all traffic across it was shut down. Large piles of sand were placed at both ends completely blocking access to the bridge over the LaPlatte River about a quarter mile south of Carpenter Road on Dorset Street.
At the selectboard’s meeting on May 1, the board members hemmed and hawed about how to proceed.
Lewis Mudge expressed frustrations and reservations about spending money on the bridge with a controversial revised budget vote scheduled for Tuesday, the next day.
Chair Jim Faulkner was concerned about violating the board’s policy requiring bids from at least three contractors for large expenditures.
Finally, road commissioner Junior Lewis weighed in with absolute clarity that expediency was needed, and the bridge should get a temporary fix as soon as possible.
“I think you guys have already spent enough time on it. I think it should be voted on and move on,” Lewis said.
The bridge problem was the reason the special meeting was called, but since the board was meeting anyway, several other items were added to the agenda. After the meeting was finally called to order, at least four items were cut from the agenda because board member Kelly Devine was absent. It was felt that a full contingent was needed to consider those items.
Selectboard member Frank Tenney, who drives a school bus for the Champlain Valley School District, said, “I drive over that bridge every day with my school bus. I have kids on both sides of it.”
He said he did not think the board should leave the bridge unrepaired and keep the road closed, waiting for the state to do something.
“I think that it’s something that should be repaired,” Tenney said. “Hopefully the repair that we’re going to do will last long enough until the state decides what they’re going to do, if they’re going to replace it or not.”
Lewis said making the fix was “a no-brainer.” Although it will cost around $23,000, he said, he thinks there is almost $800,000 in reserve funds he hasn’t spent from previous years’ highway department budgets.
So, the town won’t have to spend any more money, Lewis said. This money has already been allocated and this reserve is for critical situations that suddenly come up, like the bridge.
After Lewis spoke, the board quickly voted 4-0 to approve the bridge repair for no more than $23,000. By the same margin the board also voted to give the contract to Parent Construction, a Hinesburg company whose website says among its specialties are bridge and commercial concrete construction. The company said it could get to work on the bridge in two weeks.
Faulkner said they are looking for used steel sheets 8-feet wide by 12-feet long for the fix.
The board discussed placing a weight limit of 15 tons and limit vehicles using the bridge to two axles until permanent repairs can be made, but no motion was made on this.
George Rorbaugh who lives next to the bridge on Dorset Street asked the board to put a four-way stop at Carpenter Road to slow traffic down as it approaches the bridge.
The selectboard has a regularly scheduled meeting at 6:30 p.m. next Monday, May 8.