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  • Writer's pictureCharlene Sims, Journal staff

Commission cannot decide on emergency fix to bridge

Updated: Jul 2

A portion of 900 Road west of Wattles Road caved in as a result of recent flash flooding. The road goes over four 10-foot-diameter culverts at this location. However, according to county officials, an 8 foot culvert was used to make a patch and the different in culvert sizes caused the washout. (Roger Sims/Linn County Journal)

By Charlene Sims,

MOUND CITY – Newly installed Commission Chair Danny McCullough continued to question the advice of Chad McCullough, the county’s on-call engineer from Kaw Valley Engineering, during the commission on Monday, June 10.

Commissioner McCullough, at the commission’s June 3 meeting, indicated that engineer McCullough’s warning in May was incorrect. At that meeting the engineer said that Linn County would likely be suspended from Kansas Department of Transportation (KDOT) bridge repair matching funds if it refused to move forward to replace the Hell’s Bend bridge.

At that time Commissioner McCullough, who is not an engineer, said the Hell's Bend bridge looked OK to him.

The commissioner pointed to a matching grant that KDOT approved to make a portion of County Road 1095 safer as evidence. However, the county had applied for that grant earlier this year before the controversy over replacing the Hell’s Bend bridge. KDOT has deemed the Hell's Bend bridge a fracture critical bridge that would fail if any of its components were compromised.

On Monday, June 10, Public Works Director Shaun West explained the two options for repairing the bridge at 900 Wattles Road that was washed out by the recent rains. One was a long-term fix and the other involved a short-term repair followed by complete replacement.

However, Commissioner McCullough was not able to make a decision about what to do about the repair. The other two commissioners, Jim Johnson and Jason Hightower, both thought they should proceed with the repair.

The discussion of the bridge, which is near McCullough’s residence, continued for nearly 45 minutes with West explaining what engineer McCullough recommend as a quick fix that could then be followed by a permanent fix.

West explained that the engineer told him that a permanent fix would be to put in new box culverts that could handle the amount of water going through the area. The engineer had priced box culverts that large, at McPherson and Wichita, but only received one bid and the shipping alone was $9,000.

According to West, the engineer is now researching building the culverts at the location instead of ordering them premade.

The time period for the permanent project could possibly be nine to 12 months as utilities will have to be moved, engineering completed, rights of way or construction easements purchased, surveys by the Division of Water resources office completed and the bidding process.

As a temporary fix, the engineer recommended digging up the existing culverts that were bent, straightening them, banding and welding them together and putting them back. That would work for awhile and allow traffic to use the bridge.

However, in a later phone interview West said that if a temporary fix was completed, he would recommend that trucks not go over the repair in order that it would last long enough until the permanent work was done. West said that this bridge only goes to two residences. 

West said that the temporary repair could be done by five county employees and would take two to four days to complete, but he suggested that a three week window be allowed for the completion due to weather interruptions.

Commissioner McCullough said that he was against taking road employees from working on the gravel roads until the gravel roads were up to par. He asked about outsourcing the work on the bridge to a company. 

“We have major problems here that we all need to be on the same page about,” said Commissioner McCullough. “We have a special road and bridge fund that we have money in that they wanted us to use on Hell’s Bend, which there is nothing wrong with that bridge. 

“I think a project like this, an emergency, is exactly what those funds should be used on. Not something that we went and applied for a grant and there’s nothing structurally wrong with the bridge. It makes no sense to me. I think we should outsource and use these funds for those culverts.”

I’m for fixing and getting it fixed as fast as we can, said Johnson.

I would like to get the road operable, said Hightower.

“So there’s no grandfather rule if we just take out what’s there and put back exactly the same size. We can’t do that?” asked McCullough.

I’m being told we have to permit through the state and that wouldn’t be allowed,” said West. 

“We can’t put back what’s there, that’s what you’re saying,” said Johnson. “I mean if we dug it up and put in two 10-footers in there we cannot do that?”

“That is my understanding,” said West.

“Who tells us that?” asked Johnson.

“The engineer that we’ve paid as the on-call to work the problem with us,” said West.

“How come the state’s involved when it’s not considered a bridge?” asked McCullough.

“We are talking about the Department of Water Resources, how much water in a waterway that can be restricted with a roadway or an obstacle. The Corps of Engineers, Department of Water Resources, those people have interest in those waterways and certain areas that require permitting through them as opposed to other state entities,” said West.

“I don’t know where the state got involved in this, I’m with Danny on this one,” said Johnson.

“It’s on camera now,” said McCullough referring to the fact that the commission meetings are live-streamed on YouTube. “But how would they even know if we were doing the repair if we were just putting the tubes in and go on?”

“If our on-call engineer tells me,” said West.

“Well, he also told us that we would never get a grant from the state of Kansas again. I think he’s full of (expletive), that’s my opinion but . .  .” said McCullough, trailing off.

“If our on-call engineer tells me that we cannot put anything in a waterway without sizing it for the Department of Water Resource properly or without getting a permit once it reaches a certain size, then I can’t put it in a waterway. I can’t commit an administrative or a sanction violation of a policy once I am aware of it,” said West. 

“Okay, do we have documentation of this policy, I’ll take the blame,” said McCullough. “Then, I just want to get the road fixed and put back. What’s there when they call us out, we had to do an emergency fix.”

“That’s what we’re saying. We’re patching it in an emergency,” said West.

“Well, can we get flowable fill and put in that hole and then throw a piece of steel plate over it and go on?” asked Johnson.

“The foremen believe that the quickest most reasonable fix that they could find with the conditions that they had was the one they offered,” said West.

“I feel like we’re putting too much thought and effort into the temporary fix though,” said McCullough. “Let’s table it and think about it for awhile”.

At the end of the commission meeting, it was decided to meet with the engineer onsite. 



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