Lebanon County Commissioners unanimously accepted a low bid totaling just under $527,200 for a one-lane bridge replacement project in Heidelberg Township.

That vote came at a special session of County Commissioners on Thursday, May 30.

Jay Fulkroad and Sons Inc. of McAlisterville, Juniata County, received the contract to replace a county bridge on Michters Road over Hammer Creek at a cost of $526,267.62. 

The Fulkroad bid was the lowest of the five received to replace the county-owned bridge, which was found to be structurally unsound by the state Department of Transportation.

County administrator Jamie Wolgemuth noted the special meeting was held so work would not be delayed by another week, with the project completion goal before the end of 2024. The next regularly scheduled meeting of the commissioners is on Thursday, June 6.

“The bridge has been slated for replacement for a while now, the engineering has been in the works for close to a year,” said Wolgemuth. “You’ll recall a few modifications we had to make to satisfy PennDOT requirements.”

One of those modifications includes the narrowing of the cartway, or path, of the bridge. 

“Last summer, I believe it was,” said Wolgemuth about the timing of the PennDOT requirements, “so that vehicles couldn’t get to each side of the bridge because of the failings, or the weakness of the bridge was along the edges, and now we’re ready to address that by replacing the entire bridge. It serves about 20 to 30 residences on the south side of Hammer Creek at the very edge of Lebanon County and abuts up against Elizabeth Township in Lancaster County.”

The work will include:

  • Erosion and sedimentation pollution controls
  • Replacement of bridge superstructure
  • Substructure modifications
  • Approach roadway construction

Wolgemuth said the county has contacted local neighbors who have “approved contemporary easements” and one neighbor who has agreed to a “permanent easement of about 1,000 square feet” that’s needed for the installation of guide rails for the bridge. 

Cooperation on the project has extended beyond those residents who live near the bridge.

Wolgemuth said county and state officials have been coordinating and cooperating with Elizabeth Township officials because they have a bridge in their municipality near this one that is also slated for repairs.

“They have held off on that so that we can get this one done,” he added.

During discussion, commissioner Mike Kuhn thanked Wolgemuth for cooperating with all concerned since there were various moving parts to ensure that those area residents weren’t cut off with two bridge construction projects occurring simultaneously.

“There was the potential with the timing because these things don’t happen overnight, to put these people on an island with both bridges gone,” said Kuhn. “We went out to Heidelberg Township and met with leaders there. Some people from Lancaster County came and PennDOT, and within days we were able to have a lot of nice cooperation.”

Wolgemuth said meetings were held because of PennDOT’s concerns about the outer support beams and how fragile they had become.

“Closing the bridge would have isolated, prior to construction, prematurely isolated people on the south side, and then we learned that Elizabeth Township had a project scheduled out by the end of Pumping Station Road and 322,” he said. “So PennDOT allowed us to instead, alternatively, to make it safer by narrowing it with timbers, we used yellow-painted timbers on the edge, so vehicles couldn’t use the edge, making it a narrower passage, but it is a slower single lane to begin with.”

Wolgemuth added that the other bridge’s construction project was delayed, meaning those local residents won’t be isolated.

“It’s good to see cooperation between the people who were involved – all of the municipalities and PennDOT – getting together and making some common sense decisions that really benefit the people who live there,” stated Kuhn. “It could have caused a real hardship there.”

The other construction firms to bid on the project and their amounts were:

CriLon Corp – $573,053.98

JVI Group Inc. – $635,695.75

Lobar Site Development Corporation – $678,504.00

Kinsley Construction Inc. – $696,000.00

Wolgemuth noted that the base bid submitted by Fulkroad and Sons was nearly $70,000 lower than the projected cost that was supplied to the county by Wilson Consulting Group, which is Lebanon County’s civil engineering consulting firm.

“Fulkroad came in about $70,000 lower than that and they (Wilson officials) are recommending that you award and that you give a notice to proceed by June 25th,” said Wolgemuth, who added the county has worked with Fulkroad in the past.

Wolgemuth announced the bridge replacement, which will include two lanes when completed, is being paid through Marcellus Shale (Act 13) monies that the county received.

“This is Marcellus Shale funding that we’ve been accumulating for the past several years,” he said. “That is a lot simpler and quicker than going through some liquid fuels project or otherwise, and that money is intended specifically for bridges and road projects. We’ll continue to do that because we have others that need work, so stay tuned.”  

Wolgemuth noted that PennDOT inspected and approved the reuse of the red sandstone abutments for the bridge since it is wide enough to accommodate two lanes. He told LebTown that the bridge’s original construction date is unknown but that similar bridges are dated to the 1890s.

“That’s how it was originally built and we’ve maintained those abutments over the years, so we did some masonry work to them and, according to the engineers, they are in good enough shape to put a new bridge on them,” he said. “The superstructure is what is being replaced.” 

Construction is expected to be completed by Dec. 6. 

In other county business, commissioners voted 2-1 to spend annual grant funding available through the County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania’s PA Counties Risk Pool for two projects.

CCAP administers a program that funds safety-related projects through its insurance carrier to lower potential liability for its member counties. Lebanon County’s annual share of grant funding is $30,000.

Commissioners approved applying for a three-year Basic Armor Plan to maintain the security and safety of the courthouse and its occupants, according to Wolgemuth, at a cost of $3,750.

“This plan ensures that our security system remains reliable, providing peace of mind for employees and the public,” he wrote in the grant application. “With features like unlimited cloud notifications, 24/7 monitoring, and remote support, we can be confident that our security system will perform when it’s needed most.”

The county also applied, with about $2,900 remaining for the current CCAP funding year, to purchase a $2,800 snowblower to clear county properties during inclement weather. The snowblower would be used at the county prison, mental health offices on Lehman Street and at the county courthouse in the city by inmate work crews.

A bid of $2,800 for a new Honda 24 Track Hydro Snowblower was provided by Ebling’s Service Plus, Myerstown, and was approved by commissioners.

Commissioner Jo Ellen Litz was the dissenting vote for the two bids, which were packaged together as one motion, since wording in the security system application was vague. She said it referred to “the door” instead of “any county door” for an alert notification if a problem were to occur.

The other two commissioners did not want to amend the contract’s language to be that specific, so Litz voted against approving those two purchases.    

The next meeting of the county commissioners is scheduled for June 6 at 9:30 a.m. in Room 207 of the county courthouse in Lebanon.

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James Mentzer is a freelance writer whose published works include the books Pennsylvania Manufacturing: Alive and Well; Bucks County: A Snapshot in Time; United States Merchant Marine Academy: In Service to the Nation 1943-2018; A Century of Excellence: Spring Brook Country Club 1921-2021; Lancaster...


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