Concerned resident Jeff Gieseke met with Wetzel County Commissioners April 1 to ask for updates regarding New Martinsville's Brooklyn-Main Street Bridge.
"We met with the contractor and the state in Moundsville last week, and everything was pretty well explained there. We have nothing basically in it now," stated Commission President Bob Gorby.
"So the state's taken over the bridge?" Gieseke stated.
"No, they are paying for about all of it," Gorby stated. "They inspect it and everything. They take care of all of that, and they approved a contractor, and we had nothing in approving the contractor."
"They have until Aug. 15 to complete the bridge," Gorby added.
"Are there any penalties if they run over?" Gieseke inquired.
"That's being checked on right now," Gorby stated. "I imagine there is . . . They give them a deadline to get it done, but of course everything depends on the weather. Right now the water is up above the blocks that are gone, and they will build coffer dams, from what we are being told, up around those and pour concrete in them."
"What kind of equipment are they using?" Gieseke asked.
"They talked about bringing in a barge, and I think they are still discussing that," Commissioner Don Mason noted . . "a small barge."
Mason continued: "Although the bridge belongs to the county, the state took over with the construction part, so all contracts went through the state . . . Unfortunately all the money they borrowed came through the stimulus program, so all money had to be approved through Washington, D.C. We were surprised it came that fast."
"(Secretary Paul A.) Mattox and (Governor Earl Ray) Tomblin stepped in and made sure the bridge was put on priority, but the state handles all the contractors' agreements, and they let us know what was going on," Mason noted. "Was that a good idea? I don't know. We might've been best off to take over the whole responsibility. If it ever happens again, we'll probably have second thoughts," he added.
"They are not going to tear the old bridge down," Gorby reiterated. "The concrete will just come up on the piers a ways . . They will have to put coffer dams down and pump that water out."
"Is there a water supply line that runs under that bridge?" Gieseke questioned.
"I'm sure they've checked that out," noted Mason.
"The bridge will not be jacked up or moved. They will just pour concrete in there," Gorby reiterated.
Gieseke added that he did not know how the contractors would be able to get the coffers "down in there."
"I guess they do a lot of projects for the state of West Virginia," Gorby added.
"Is the bridge going to continue to be shutdown, while working on it, even for emergencies?" Gieseke questioned.
"They talked about that in Moundsville . . . Emergency traffic will not be affected at all. Everything will be the same as it is right now."
Gieseke also had questions on opening certain railroad crossings up to alleviate some of the traffic and wait issues. Furthermore, he expressed concerns as to how the bridge situation affected children's bus stops. Mason urged Gieseke to go contact the city and the board of education, respectively, for each issue. "My experience dealing with CSX on crossings . . . it's a tough job," Mason noted. "You just can't deal with it, but to me, if they'd open that south crossing back up, it relieves a lot of the problems down there, but CSX, apparently, I don't know how much it costs them to move that track back up."
"All they did was tear the one that was barely decent up," Gieseke stated.
"They talk about being good neighbors, but they don't demonstrate it very well," Mason noted. Addressing the rough condition of Railroad Street that can be used to access the most northern railroad crossing in the isolated portion of Brooklyn, Mason said, "However, anything to do with paving, that's the city's responsibility."
Furthermore, Gieseke asked if the commission had any plans on updating the public via the newspaper.
"That seemed to be a concern, earlier, on how do we inform the people in the area," Mason stated. "It was suggested Facebook, but I get kind of concerned about Facebook because . . . There's some things on Facebook that just aren't true."
Commission Vice President Larry Lemon added, "When people call and ask about the status . . . There's communication from that standpoint. We are responsible to take calls from those residents. I've taken calls from people and call people back."
Reading from Gieseke's list of questions to the commissioners, Gorby stated, "You ask questions on here about children and the safety area issue with fencing and such, I'm sure Velotta (the company doing the bridge work) will fence that area off so no one can get down in there." Gorby also stated that Velotta "talked about safety issues and how they are going to handle that." He added, "The right-of-ways beside Mr. Myers' house on the west side of the bridge . . . and on this side, of the creek . . . They are going to go down where the city had the right-of-way to the east side of the bridge."
When asked about how the county will handle CSX's refusal to move the train, Mason stated the county is not in the position to pass any ordinance, but added "the municipality can."
"It appears at the last meeting, Prosecuting Attorney Timothy Haught was talking about how we could handle that, to call his office and sign a complaint, and he'll issue that order to CSX," said Mason. "I don't know if anyone has issued a complaint with anyone on that."
Also, Gieseke mentioned how a strong odor of natural gas is evident in the area. "My wife typed this question, and I didn't get specifics about it, but when we take our grandson and go for walks around both of the blocks down there . . . it could come off the cars parked up there or someone could have leaking gas."
"I would report that to the EPA. Call the state EPA, and have them check it out," said Mason.
"Given the recent history of gas explosions, I wouldn't take it lightly," added Lemon.
"As the county commission's position, we are doing everything we can to get the bridge opened. We've contacted a lot of state officials . . . the meeting we had at the church . . . Pethtel and Edgell pretty much worked with the highway department to get that bridge prioritized and we are wanting that bridge opened really as much as you guys. We know the hardship you are facing and the potential of what could happen if disaster occurred. We are looking at as many safety precautions as we can to protect people in that area."
Gieseke said that the issue would not be as big "if it wasn't for the excessive waits on the train . . . It's 45 minutes to an hour to go to Witschey's," he stated.
"In 1974 when they took the deck off the bridge and put a new deck on, it didn't seem to be an issue," Mason remarked.
"Well we have so many different plants up there . . . so I don't know if there's an increase in train traffic."
"CSX tells us they are building a new switching station up there, and once completed there won't be any switching problems anymore," Mason noted.
"I'll assure you again, we are doing everything we can to get that bridge open," Mason added. "Anytime you have questions call any of us and we'll keep you updated on what we've been updated on. I can tell you that at the construction meeting things seemed to go good. Everyone understood the bridge was a priority, and in fact, they said it."
"The deadline is August 15," Gorby stated, "but they did make the remark if the water went down, they are going to do everything they can do to get it started earlier."
"My understanding is that once they get started it won't take long," Mason noted.
Jeremy Shepherd, on the ballot to represent that ward on New Martinsville City Council, also attended the meeting. He questioned when the construction was going to start.
"It depends on the water level and the weather," Mason noted.
"So next week or next month?" Shepherd stated.
"That's out of our control, but they know it's a priority," Mason stated.