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Ferrysburg plans third attempt at state grant for Smith's Bridge

Marie Havenga • Apr 16, 2018 at 8:00 AM

FERRYSBURG – Leaders in Ferrysburg hope the third time is a charm for a a multi-million dollar state grant.

After being denied in 2016 and 2017, City Manager Craig Bessinger said the city plans to apply again before the May 1 deadline for an $8.5 million state local bridge grant to help reconstruct Smith’s Bridge.

City Council is expected to approve a resolution to formally authorize the grant application at its meeting, scheduled for 7 p.m. tonight at City Hall.

Bessinger said staff will learn this fall if the grant application has been approved. Following the last two attempts, Bessinger said he was told the grant request was denied because the state didn’t have enough funds.

If it’s approved this go-around, Ferrysburg would still have to come up with a 15 percent, or $1.5 million, match for the $10 million bridge reconstruction project. The city would also have to pay another $2 million for engineering costs.

“We would know sometime this year if we’re going to get the grant,” Bessinger said. “It will all depend on how much funding is available for them to give out. It is my understanding that amount varies from year to year. Hopefully there’s enough funding in there for the state to fund our project this year.”

Actual reconstruction would not begin until 2021, Bessinger noted.

That should give the city enough time to seek millage or bond money to help fund its portion of the project.

Last November, Ferrysburg voters defeated a millage request that would have levied up to 3 mills for 20 years to replace the bridge.

The millage would have cost $100 a year for the owner of a $200,000 home and brought up to $10.2 million into city coffers to help replace the bridge, which was built in 1972.

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

An engineering firm recently determined that the bridge has deteriorated to the point that it needs to be replaced.

“There are issues with the superstructure and we want to replace the piers that support the bridge so we can extend the life of that bridge for another 50, 60 or 70 years,” Bessinger said.

Even though the millage proposal failed, Bessinger said he and city leaders still have to find funds to pay for the bridge.

“We’re going to keep trying to look for funding opportunities, whether it’s grants, millage or a combination of both,” he said. “The engineer recommends it needs to be replaced. She’s the expert and we have to find a way to make it happen.”

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