Decisions still pending on local bridge repair | News

At the Feb. 8 Mitchell County Board of Supervisors meeting, Mitchell County Engineer Rich Brumm reported that inclement weather has paused construction on the Balsam Avenue bridge.

A member of the construction crew at the Balsam Avenue bridge.

Jason W Selby Press News

“I think they’ve permanently moved out until weather is more conducive to work,” Mitchell County Engineer Rich Brumm said of construction crews. “What they don’t want to do—they’ve got the decking in there—if they put the steel on it now and then they get some good weather in the spring, then they’ve got to figure out how to get all the snow off the deck….

“Moving out now is not a concern for anybody. It’s not going to delay anything.”

Brumm indicated he spoke with engineering firm WHKS about the State Highway 105 bridge, and he recommended a temporary repair in order to reopen the bridge.

“So we can design a bridge without having any inconvenience,” he said.

Brumm added that if the county uses local dollars on the bridge, WHKS felt it would not need to follow the Iowa DOT’s letting schedule. WHKS could then complete a design in a couple of months, have it let, and have a project underway in the spring. They would not need to pay for temporary repairs, and they could maintain the status quo on bridge traffic at that time, according to Brumm. However, this plan would also depend on scheduling contractor.

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“We have to be willing to find an alternative funding source if we want to speed up the project,” Brumm said.

Brumm estimated the projects on Highway 105 and Hickory Avenue combined would cost $1.8 million. While he hopes Hickory Avenue has been priced high, Brumm is not as optimistic about Highway 105, as bridge costs have increased within the last few years.

“With all this money coming from the feds now, our biggest challenge in this industry is we’ve got plenty of bridges to work on and plenty of money to do the bridges, but we don’t have the contractors to do all the work ,” Brumm said. “So we’ll either pay a lot of high prices, or we’re not going to get the stuff done.”

“It’s going to take some time for the markets to settle out, where the contractors can get the help they need, but the way the market is, you’ve got to pay the people to come work for you…. We’ve got this bottleneck of the labor force.”

These factors will make prices increase and slow down projects. Brumm said that even if the county lets the project in early spring, it does not guarantee a contractor will be available immediately.

Brumm indicated the county would not receive federal infrastructure funds until late 2022.

As well, Brumm is recommending the purchase of used 2015 vintage model all-wheel drive Caterpillar motor graders with full snow equipment. The price is around $253,000 for each. Each machine has 2,000 hours or less of estimated use and will not be available for purchase until March or April. Brumm added that a new Caterpillar motor grader would cost at least $100,000 more.

“Even new equipment is getting hard to schedule out,” Brumm said, stating other counties that have ordered new dump trucks still have not received these vehicles after over a year, and this is because of supply chain issues. As well, in that timespan, those counties are incurring additional costs as the price of materials continues to rise.

Mitchell County still has not received the new motor grader it purchased the previous year, which Brumm had estimated at a December supervisors meeting would arrive in December or January.

“In the grand scheme of things, equipment probably isn’t a high priority, but sooner or later it does become a priority when the local dollars are the only thing we can spend on equipment, and TIF can’t be used for that, ” Brumm said. “We’ve been fortunate. The TIF from 12 years ago has put us in a position that delayed the inevitable for this county and Worth County too.”

According to the Iowa Department of Management, Tax Increment Financing is a financing mechanism for urban renewal. Its intent is to keep young professionals in Iowa instead of moving out of state.

• In other business, Supervisor Mike Mayer reported receiving one bid from Adam’s Plumbing and Heating in Osage for installing heat in Mitchell County’s storage shed. Mayer hopes to receive more bids for the project.

As well, Mitchell County Attorney Aaron Murphy said much of his docket last week involved juvenile rather than criminal matters.

Jason W. Selby is the community editor for the Mitchell Country Press News. He can be reached at 515-971-6217, or by email at