Bridges, communications discussed by county board

Linda Grummert,  Highway Superintendent for Scotts Bluff County.

GERING — The Scotts Bluff County Board of Commissioners handled a light agenda during their Monday meeting, primarily dealing with roads and communications.

The board gave unanimous approval to a resolution authorizing the Nebraska Department of Transportation to inspect the county’s four fracture-critical bridges in 2019.

County Highway Superintendent Linda Grummert said the state has been inspecting their fracture-critical bridges for the past 10 years, but this will be their last inspection. Going forward, the county will be responsible for that task.

“A fracture-critical bridge is a two-part bridge and if one part fails, the entire structure fails,” Grummert said. “Inspections on those bridges are what we call arm’s length. That’s how close we have to be when we inspect the structure.”

She said the truss bridges, which date back to the 1930s, are examples of fracture-critical. All of them are on gravel roads in Scotts Bluff County.

“We’re lucky we only have four of them,” Grummert said. “Other counties have a lot more. All of them have load limits on them because they’re good sized structures.”

She estimated replacement in case of bridge failure could run in the neighborhood of $500,000.

The county performs around 150 bridge inspections each year, so adding fracture-critical bridges isn’t a big increase. However, the inspection process is more rigorous. While inspection reports for most bridges cover from 3-4 pages, the fracture-critical inspection report is 12 pages and goes into greater detail.

Commissioners also gave unanimous approval to the one bid submitted for the county’s 911 communications tower relocation project.

Ray Richards, 911 communications director for the county, said the current tower on top of the county courthouse building, in use for the past 40 years, is “pretty much in hospice” and is in need of replacement.

Richards said the county received a conditional use permit from the City of Gering to build the new 150-foot tower just west of the old county jail on 11th Street.

The county advertised for bids from companies interested in doing the work; but they received only one from Action Communications for $278,960.

“That bid is only for the new tower and removing the old one,” Richards told the board. “We still have to get a generator and some HVAC equipment, but we’ll still be under the $500,000 we projected for the total project.”

One of the other requirements is that the new tower be enclosed in decorative fencing and have surrounding landscaping because it’s located in the downtown Gering business district.

Richards said he wasn’t sure how the cost would work into the county budget, but he was confident they could secure some grant funding for the project.

“We’ll start readying the site this week,” he said. ‘We want to be done before Halloween. That means we have a lot of excavation to do, rebar, pouring concrete and all the rest.”

He added the new tower has a massive grounding system that meets all the current codes and best practices. The tower itself should arrive in about a month.

Once the new tower is up and operating, there’s room for some growth for additional communications functions. The county has been in discussions for possibly providing nighttime law enforcement dispatch services for Kimball and Morrill counties and the City of Alliance.

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Jerry Purvis is a reporter with the Star-Herald. He can be reached at 308-632-9046 or emailed at jpurvis@starherald.com.

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