By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Commission discusses replacing historic stone bridges
new deh county commission bridge pic
Shown is the historic Hitschmann Cattle Underpass Bridge northeast of Claflin. The replacement of the bridge is being discussed. - photo by COURTESY PHOTO

In other business Monday morning, the County Commission:
• After much discussion, a split commission approved designating emergency vehicle status to Dove Chevrolet, Buick, Cadillac Inc., Great Bend, for its 1997 Ford F-450 rollback wrecker truck, operated by Dove personnel, that is used for towing and wrecker services in Barton County and elsewhere. According to state statute, such an application to use flashing red lights needs be submitted to the commission in the county in which the vehicle will be operated, said Sheriff Brian Bellendir, who recommended the action.
However, Commissioner Kenny Schremmer felt such an action would open the door to a flood of applicants which could lead to abuse. “Pretty soon, we’ll have red lights everywhere.”
But, this will be done on a case-by-case basis, Bellendir said. He has two other pending requests.
The sheriff said he understands the concerns, but response times by a wrecker to an accident scene could be reduced if there are other options.
The law requiring commission approval was passed in 1992, replacing a statute that allowed county sheriffs to issue permits. Bellendir said he is unsure how many of these permits, which don’t have an expiration date, were issued in Barton County.
Schremmer voted against the permit for Doves, saying the use of red lights should remain a “privilege and an honor for law enforcement.”
• Approved hiring C&V Home Improvement of Great Bend to replace the steel doors on the south side of the Health Department for a cost of $5,534.70.  Local vendors were asked to submit quotes for the replacements, including the door jambs and Americans with Disabilities hardware, said Lily Akings, health director. The old doors, used mostly for loading, were rusting and difficult to open and close.
• Adopted a proclamation declaring April 14-20 as National Public Safety Telecommunications Week. Doug Hubbard, 911 director, said that, in part, the proclamation honors public safety communications officers “for their vital role in protecting the life and property of Barton County citizens.”
“Every day, millions of people depend on the skill, expertise and commitment of the women and men who work in public safety telecommunications,” Hubbard said. “We have a very capable group (in Barton County). I am proud of them.”
Introduced to Congress by the Association of Public Safety Communications Officials, the observance has been in place since 1991.
• Heard an update on the activities of county departments from County Administrator Richard Boeckman.

There are two historic limestone bridge north of the tiny northeast Barton County community of Hitschmann that may be nice to look at, but don’t meet the grueling needs of today’s faster, larger and heavier traffic.
One of those structures, a Works Project Administration bridge dating back to 1941 located about eight miles northeast of Claflin on NE 190 Road, is commonly known as the Hitschmann Cattle Underpass Bridge. It was suggested during the Barton County Commission meeting Monday that the bridge be replaced and widened from 24 to 30 feet.
As the bridge is on the National Register of Historic Places, County Administrator Richard Boeckman said the Kansas State Historical Society must be notified and given five days to respond. The public also has the right to offer comments or objections.
It is possible, however, to remove a structure from the listing. Officials must show they’ve considered all “relevant factors,” such as public safety and the availability of viable options, Boeckman said.
This span and the so-called double-arch bridge, which the commission discussed last year, are with in the same mile on the same road. The double-arch bridge can’t carry the weight of modern machinery and the underpass bridge is too narrow.
“I like antique bridges and buildings as much as anyone, maybe more,” said Commissioner Kenny Schremmer. But, the volume of traffic on 190 Road has increased and there are safety concerns.
“The bridge is nice to look at, but we have others,” he said. There are seven stone bridges in the county on the register.
In addition, when the structures were first listed, the state pledged to pay for maintenance. But, Schremmer said the state has backed out of the deal.
“It seemed like a good idea at the time,” Commissioner Jennifer Schartz said of listing the bridges. “But, when you fix an old bridge, you still have an old bridge.”
Repairing the existing spans would cost about the same as replacing them. But, officials said the new ones would not require as much on-going work.
The bridges were nominated to the National Register under Criterion A for its construction under the supervision of the WPA and Criterion C for their  architectural significance as a native limestone bridges. They are included in the “Seven WPA Limestone Bridges of Barton County” thematic resources nomination.
No action was taken. Even if the commission votes to replace the bridges and there are no objections, work would not be done until 2014.