County officials consider closing county roads for structure repair

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Boone County officials have marked 16 culverts in need of structural repair or replacement, and construction on four of the most pressing culverts might require closing county roads.

Boone County Highway Dept. Director and County Engineer Craig Parks said SJCA, an Indianapolis-based engineering firm, inspected all small structures in the county while preparing a report. In the report, which found 16 small structures, defined as bridges less than 20 feet in length, failed to meet legal load-bearing standards. In response, the Boone County Commissioners, passed an ordinance to post signs at the sites with new load rates.

Four of the 16 small structures (which are called culverts but resemble small bridges) were noted for exceptional deterioration, including one with exposed steel jutting from the structure.

One structure was rated for a 6-ton limit, and the other three were rated for an 8-ton limit. Parks said he would be concerned allowing any of these structures to be used, even with warning signs, and he recommended closing the four roads to allow for repairs. They are C.R. 300 S, a frequently traveled road, Boone County Commissioner Jeff Wolfe said, and C.R. 900 W., C.R. 750 N. and C.R. 400 E.

The report was the first to provide a load-rate analysis of the county’s small structures, Parks said. Most of the county’s bridges are inspected on a biannual basis, with the exception of bridges with condition issues, which are inspected annually to track deterioration, he said, adding that a bridge inspection contract for one year’s worth of inspections costs approximately $200,000.

“We now have 26 bridges and 16 culverts that now do not meet legal loads,” Parks said at the commissioners’ Aug. 3 meeting.

Parks told the Boone County commissioners, who are tasked with maintaining the county’s public roadways, the culverts are not safe because they would potentially not be able to bear the weight of common vehicular traffic. Parks estimated many vehicles could exceed 8 tons and a loaded school bus could exceed 15 tons.

After being made aware of the report’s findings, Parks contacted each of the county school districts to notify them of planned detours should county commissioners close any of the four roads. Parks said Lebanon’s school district has already made plans to reroute bus routes.

“We have a situation here where we really don’t have much choice,” Wolfe said during the commissioners’ Aug. 10 meeting. “We have an engineering firm that has reviewed, we have our professional engineer, and (they’ve determined) these structures are not safe. We’ve got to do something about it. This is not about liability; this is about the safety of our residents.”

The commissioners were scheduled to meet Aug. 17 at the Boone County Fairgrounds to consider an ordinance that would close the four county roads needed to make repairs or replacements to the small structures.

The Boone County Council, the governing body that oversees the county’s financial expenditures, met Aug. 13 to consider how the county would fund the projects. At the meeting, county councilors cast a vote of confidence in favor of issuing a total of $5.35 million in bonds, which would require an increase in property taxes to repay the bonds, in what is called a debt service levy. Until the council determines the duration of the bonds, the exact increases in property taxes will remain undetermined.

The vote of confidence meant the council would likely approve a bond ordinance at its September meeting and an additional appropriation ordinance at its October meeting,  giving officials and consultants reason to delineate resources and hours toward drafting the necessary legal documents.

County officials said the county has never used a debt service levy, but 38 of Indiana’s 92 counties do, including Marion, Hendricks and Hamilton counties.


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