Fleischmanns bridge woes on front burner

By Jay Braman Jr.
As Fleischmanns residents continue to be told not to expect the Bridge Street bridge to be replaced, a special meeting concerning all of the village’s bridges will take place this Thursday in the Skene Memorial Library at 6 p.m.

And it is expected that many residents will not take things lying down.
The Bridge Street bridge site, located a stone’s throw from the old Roberts’ Auction Barn, has always been a convenient way to and from Main Street to Wagner Avenue and the village park. That all ended one year ago when tropical storm Irene destroyed the bridge.

Declaring the span no longer safe, the Delaware County Department of Public Works removed the structure and erected guardrails on Bridge Street to prevent vehicles from driving into the stream.

Possible walkway
Since then, there have been rumors about a walkway bridge being built. There has also been talk of a full replacement to allow vehicles once again, and of course, there is concern that it will just remain as is.

Several months ago many village residents were insulted by the county’s Department of Public Works office claiming that a new bridge would not be feasible because a new structure would need to be designed to withstand future flooding. Officials described a mammoth bridge that would require the condemnation of property in order to be built.

A similar argument was made three years ago to the residents of Halcottsville, where a planned bridge replacement near Susan’s Pleasant Pheasant Farm Bed and Breakfast called for the condemnation of parts of the farm’s property, which would have led to economic disaster for the owners of the business.

The county wanted to build a bigger bridge there as well, but those owners, Susan and James Kelly, were able to convince the county that rebuilding the bridge within the county’s existing right of way would be the best way to go.

In Phoenicia, a bridge damaged by Irene was recently reopened despite an initial claim by the Ulster County Department of Public Works that a new, much bigger span would need to be built. That plan too called for taking property. However, Ulster County Executive Director Mike Hein commissioned a private engineering firm to examine the matter. That study concluded that the damaged bridge could be repaired. It was reopened for Memorial Day last spring much to the delight of Phoenicia residents.

It seems that many in Fleischmanns would like to see a similar outcome.
Last winter the Commissioner of Public Works was delivered a petition carrying no less than 633 signatures demanding that the bridge be restored to a full-service bridge suitable for both vehicles and pedestrians.

Even Superintendent of the Margaretville School District Anthony Albanese joined in the fray, sending a letter to Public Works Commissioner Wayne Reynolds stating that rebuilding the bridge helps out the school district as they devise the costly transportation schedules for getting kids to and from school.

Expected at the meeting on Thursday will Commissioner Reynolds, the Fleischmanns Village Board and Delaware County Stream Program Coordinator Graydon Dutcher.