The issue of the old wooden bridge east of Great Bend along Park Street dates back over 80 years. Now, since that bridge has been condemned blocking a farmer’s access to his land, the bridge straddling the Lischesky Ditch has become a problem.
“This is a bridge the city has been dealing with for years,” Interim City Administrator George Kolb told the City Council Tuesday night.
However, it will be an issue a while longer. Council members had several questions about the project and tabled it for a future meeting.
The ditch funnels rain water from much of northeastern Great Bend. It runs along Frey Street before it turns east and parallels Park Street (NE 3 Road) until it drains into Walnut Creek.
Although outside the city limits, the ditch is still city property. This makes the rickety span over it a quarter mile east of town the city’s responsibility. Therein lies the problem, Kolb said.
The Administrative Department has solicited proposals from Wichita Concrete Pipe of Wichita to replace the bridge with pre-cast concrete box culverts. Although initial bids from the company were quadruple what the city had planned for, they settled on a cost not to exceed $149,500.
The city currently has $40,000 set aside in its capital improvement fund and will budget the remaining during the yearend transfers for 2017, Kolb said. However, he expects the cost to be more in the neighborhood of $120-130,000.
This matter comes up now following a request from a farmer to repair the bridge as soon as possible as he wants to farm this ground this spring, City Attorney Bob Suelter said. He had been gaining access through a neighboring farmer’s land, but that landowner has ceased to allow this.
“We’re legally obligated to do this,” Suelter said. If the city does nothing, it risks being sued.
The city could buy the ground, but that would be costly and the there would still be no access if the bridge isn’t fixed, Suelter said.
Some on the council questioned the cost and the city’s legal obligation. It was also suggested officials look at L&M Contractors of Great Bend for the project.
The bridge was deemed unsafe for heavy farm machinery several months back, officials said. It is one of several contemporary bridge over Lischesky Ditch that are in similar condition,