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Board discusses bridge closure


Special to The Press

Lowhill supervisors met Sept. 3 via Zoom due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Bear Road Bridge was a major topic of discussion as the board plans to replace the bridge due to scouring issues.

Township engineer Ryan Christman provided information on the bridge.

Christman reported there have been issues with Bear Road Bridge for many years.

When the township experienced strong rain, an underwater inspection for the bridge was scheduled by PennDOT.

The bridge is monitored for scour, erosion of the stream bed surrounding the abutments of the support beams. Scour could lead to bridge failure, if it becomes bad enough.

Bear Road Bridge is on PennDOT’s watch list, so an inspection was performed and they discovered the scour is more advanced than it originally was.

The scour can be addressed and fixed, but it is why the bridge is currently closed.

Board Chairman Richard Hughes said they should replace the bridge and not seek bids to fix the scour, because it could happen again.

Supervisor Treasurer Robb Werley discussed the money needed to replace the bridge.

Lowhill has about $1.336 million in the general money market fund.

In the general checking account, Lowhill has just shy of $195,000. The special projects account has about $405,000.

Christman again addressed the way they would fix the scour, if they would decide to repair the problem instead of replacing the bridge.

The repair should withstand the erosion better than what has been done in the past but problems could arise again.

Hughes would like to receive disaster relief funding to help with the cost.

Werley wanted an estimation of the time line.

Christman said if bridge replacement planning gets started this fall, they should be ready to have the project started in early spring 2021.

Hughes made a motion to have Christman start the process of putting together pricing, design and planning of the placement of the finished product and complete design of everything, so the township could go out to bid.

Christman also had a report about Valley Road Bridge. Scour needs fixing on this bridge, as well.

Board Vice Chairman Buddy Wessner suggested they close the bridge and Hughes agreed.

Christman said the side of the bridge that was fixed before for scour is still intact, but now the other side needs scour repairs.

Roadmaster Joe Kalusky said it would cost between $20,000 and $30,000 to have the other side of the bridge repaired for scour problems.

Wessner made a motion to close Valley Road Bridge due to the storm that occurred, the scour that is occurring, and because the township does not have the money to fix it.

Hughes seconded the motion.

In other matters, Administrator Brian Carl said he had a request from a resident to have a study done to reduce the speed limit along Hollenbach Road.

Carl would need to do a safe travel speed study, which would show what the average safe travel speed would be.

The township would then need to pass an ordinance, get it advertised and post signage for the new speed limit if that would be the case.

Hughes said he does not have a problem with Carl conducting the safe travel speed study. Werley and Wessner concurred.

Hughes made a motion to have Carl conduct a safe travel speed study for Hollenbach road.

Werley seconded the motion.

Under old business, supervisors reported they purchased a used pickup truck for the road crew.

Wessner reported that they purchased a used truck from Upper Macungie township with 62,000 miles on it. It’s a Ford truck with a utility box on it and a plow. Upper Macungie township had it for sale.

The truck cost $18,000 and the township budgeted $40,000 for a new one, so this was a great deal, Wessner explained. And the township received $6,000 from the insurance, because the old one was totaled.

Therefore, they spent approximately $12,000 for this one.

Under new business, the supervisors discussed scheduling a budget workshop for October.

They agreed to have the budget workshop on the first Thursday of October before the regular board meeting. Carl suggested they could use the Weisenberg office, which is a little bigger, because the Lowhill board of supervisors questioned if they could complete a budget workshop over Zoom video chat.

Hughes made a motion to ask Weisenberg Township if they could use the building 5 p.m. on the first Thursday of October for the Lowhill township budget workshop.

Hughes also made a motion to have the October board meeting that same night at 7:30 p.m., but at the Weisenberg Township building.

Residents would be required to wear a mask and social distance.

Carl suggested to still advertise and contact the township for a Zoom login if needed to attend that way. Hughes made that motion. Werley seconded.

Secretary Jill Seymour mentioned Trick or Treat Night during the COVID-19 pandemic and if the township would still have the event.

Wessner suggested the township continue with the previously scheduled event, 6-8 p.m. Oct. 31.

The board agreed, letting parents decide whether to allow their children to trick or treat.