By JOE LoTEMPLIO
---- — ELLENBURG — The Narrows Road bridge, linking the northeast and southeast shores of Chateaugay Lake, will be replaced.
“This will be an inconvenience, but it has to be done,” Clinton County Legislator Robert Butler (R-Area 6, Saranac) said.
The aging bridge was replaced in 2010 as part of the federal government’s stimulus program. Construction was done in the spring and summer of that year, but upon completion of the project, an inspection showed cracks in six of the nine prefabricated cement archways.
The bridge was declared safe for traffic up to 19 tons, but county officials worried its life would be compromised by the cracks. They refused to accept it and sought to have the job re-done.
“Normally when you contract a job, you assume it will work out fine, but we can’t take a faulty bridge,” said Legislator Harry McManus (D-Area 1, Champlain), who chairs the county’s Transportation Committee.
The contractor for the job was J.E. Sheehan Contracting Corp. of Potsdam. The prefab archways were supplied by Contech Construction Products of Ohio, a subcontractor for Sheehan.
The county paid Sheehan about 80 percent of the $1.3 million cost before stopping payments when officials learned of the cracks. The federal stimulus money for the project will not be delivered to the county until a new bridge is completed and passes inspection.
The county will have to recoup its money from Sheehan.
Deputy County Administrator Rodney Brown said the case against the contractor will likely go to court as the county seeks to rectify the situation.
A call to Jim Sheehan of J.E. Sheehan Contracting Corp. went unreturned.
In the meantime, the county’s Highway Department is preparing designs for the rebuild. Highway Superintendent Al Rascoe said bids for the new bridge will go out in February or March, and work should begin in April.
“Hopefully, we can get to work in April and have it all done by the Fourth of July,” Rascoe said.
“But we don’t control the weather.”
The bridge is the main route for people who live on the southern shores of the lake, mostly seasonal residents. Many of them arrive in late May or early June.
‘PAIN IN THE NECK’
When construction took place in 2010, residents had to drive around the lake, which in some cases was a 15-to-18-mile detour.
Hal Lyons, who owns and operates Camp Chateaugay on the southern side of the lake, said having the bridge out will certainly be an inconvenience for the 300 campers, their families and camp staff.
Staff arrives June 10, and campers on June 27.
“It’s going to be a pain in the neck, just like it was a few years ago,” Lyons said from his winter office in Roxbury, Conn.
“But it is what it is, and it’s not the end of the world.”
The inconvenience pales for Lyons in light of the lives lost in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting last week — he said he has a friend who was a student of the principal was was killed there.
Lyons hopes the bridge is done right this time, but is not fretting too much over it.
“It will be an inconvenience, but nobody died over this, and we will survive,” he said.
Butler, who chairs the county’s Public Safety Committee, said he is working with Emergency Preparedness Director Eric Day to have a plan for responding to emergencies on the south side of the lake.
“We will have a plan and make sure everything is in order,” Butler said.
“It unfortunate that we have to do this again, because it should have been done right in the first place.”
Day said Lyon Mountain Fire Department normally covers the south side of the lake for ambulance and fire calls. They will get help from the Chateaugay Fire Department for calls to the western side of the lake when the bridge is out.
“That’s what we did last time, and it seemed to work, so I am sure that it will again,” Day said.
Email Joe LoTemplio: firstname.lastname@example.org