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No funds in sight

Marie Havenga • Dec 1, 2017 at 8:00 AM

Ferrysburg City Manager Craig Bessinger was checking the State of Michigan website the other day and found news he did not want to hear.

The City of Ferrysburg's grant request for help replacing the Smith's Bayou Bridge did not make the state’s list of approved projects for 2020.

Bessinger had requested 85 percent of the estimated $10.4 million construction costs from the state ($8.84 million), with the city kicking in a 15 percent match. Had the grant been approved, the city would have only had to come up with $1.56 million in construction costs, plus another $1.6 million for engineering.

It's the second door to slam on the bridge project in recent weeks.

On Nov. 7, Ferrysburg voters rejected a ballot tax proposal for up to 3 mills to help fund the bridge work. Had the state grant been successful, the plan was to dial down the millage levy, according to Bessinger.

Bessinger said he isn't giving up hope. He said he plans to explore every available avenue for funding, and leave no stone unturned.

“We knew it was going to be tough to get this grant,” he said. “We're going to keep plugging away and try to apply for different funding. We'll keep looking for dollars to help replace that bridge. We'll discuss with City Council and the engineers about submitting another grant early next year.”

Bessinger said an engineer estimates the bridge, which was built in 1972, needs to be replaced within five years. It is showing signs of significant structural deterioration and will undergo annual inspections until the time the city has the money to replace it.

“If the bridge needs to be replaced, we're going to have to do something to get the bridge replaced,” Bessinger said. “If it becomes a safety issue and we haven't got the grant money or don't have the funds to replace the bridge, then we may have to close the bridge. I'm not sure it's at that point yet.”

Besides general maintenance, in 2008, Ferrysburg put a new deck and asphalt on the bridge, and also did some pier repair.

The 442-foot-long bridge includes a 5-foot-wide sidewalk on each side. Bessinger said a new bridge would also hopefully include a pedestrian path.

City Council will discuss the issue at 7:30 p.m. Monday, Dec. 4, at Ferrysburg City Hall during its regularly scheduled meeting.

“Everything is on the table right now,” Bessinger said.

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