Grass Range bridge chosen for grant application

By: 
JENNY GESSAMAN
Reporter

This bridge six miles southwest of Grass Range will be the focus of Fergus County’s 2018 TSEP grant application. Fergus County Commissioners chose the structure on the recommendation of an engineering firm at Friday’s meeting.

Photos courtesy of Kathy Thompson

The Fergus County Commissioners selected a Grass Range bridge as the target of their 2018 Treasure State Endowment Program grant application Friday afternoon. The structure was chosen from Fergus’ 18 most-dilapidated bridges, as evaluated by an independent engineering firm.

Montana’s TSEP program awards grants for public infrastructure projects, such as bridges, to make rebuilding them more affordable. Last week, the commissioners held a public hearing on Fergus County’s 2018 TSEP application presented by the Stahly Engineering and Associates firm.

Stahly Grant Specialist Robie Culver outlined the TSEP evaluation criteria, as well as the ratings used to evaluate bridges. Although commissioners were restricted to choosing from bridges Fergus County has the responsibility of maintaining, Culver noted there were still a number of candidates.

“This county has more bridges than almost any other county in the state,” she said.

TSEP grants are extremely competitive, according to Culver, so her firm narrowed the search to the county’s 18 most-compromised bridges.

Stahly Bridge Department Manager Kathy Thompson detailed each structure, noting any deficiencies and listing the bridge’s overall “sufficiency ranking.” The ranking system scores from 0-100, with 100 representing the condition of a brand new, just-completed bridge.

Thompson closed the presentation with the firm’s recommendation, a wooden bridge six miles southwest of Grass Range. The 41-foot structure takes Forest Grove Road over the south fork of McDonald Creek, and has a posted 11-ton limit.

Thompson pointed to several factors, including the 31-mile detour that would come from the bridge’s collapse. She also said the structure was labeled as “scour critical” by the Montana Department of Transportation, meaning its abutment or pier foundations are unstable because of streambed erosion.

During the action items, Fergus County Commissioner Sandy Youngbauer moved the recommended Grass Range bridge should be the focus of the 2018 TSEP grant application. Commissioner Carl Seilstad seconded, and the motion passed unanimously.

 

In other business

• Fergus County Commissioner Carl Seilstad used the meeting’s announcements and reports to correct the County’s record.

On Feb. 21, the Fergus County Commissioners held a meeting soliciting public comment on a national bill set to remove the Wilderness-Study-Area designation from nearly 1 million acres in Montana. Seilstad explained several complaints about the accuracy of the meeting minutes came in after the minutes were approved as presented on Feb. 26.

“We will document at this meeting that there was one gentlemen by the name of Mark Good from Great Falls who gave testimony at that 21st meeting, and he was left off of the minutes,” he said Friday. “We will document in this set of minutes he gave testimony at the meeting so that’s on the record.”

Seilstad also stated for the record that Fergus Commissioners had received several comment letters, at least one of which had multiple signatures, and some comments may have been double-counted if the person had signed a letter and testified at the meeting.

• The Fergus County Commissioners approved a total of $267,912.21.

• Snowy Mountain Development Executive Director Kathy Bailey presented on the new “Opportunity Zone” federal designation.

She explained it was a new classification determined by low- to moderate-income census tracks, or subdivisions of counties. Bailey believed Fergus County had at least one eligible area, and asked for a letter of support from the commissioners.

A motion to write the letter passed unanimously.

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