ASHLAND – City officials are still determining how to best commemorate the history of a bridge that was replaced last year.
At the Ashland City Council meeting last Thursday, City Administrator Jessica Quady told the council that one of the requirements to replace the historic Silver Street bridge over Salt Creek was to honor the past of the former structure with a sign.
The bridge was erected in 1936 by Central Bridge and Construction Company of Wahoo when the Lincoln Drainage District planned to alter the course of Salt Creek. The new bridge was needed to carry traffic on heavily-traveled Highway 6 (now Silver Street) over the new channel of the creek. Funds were provided by Saunders County, which owned the bridge until it was turned over to the City of Ashland when the area was annexed.
The bridge was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1992 because of its unique architecture. It was built using the Warren truss configuration, which was used in very few bridges in Nebraska and it was one of the last two bridges of this type still standing before it was replaced.
“This is kind of a neat thing we’re talking about,” said Council Member Jim Anderson.
During the initial planning stage of the bridge replacement project, city officials worked with History Nebraska (formerly known as the Nebraska State Historical Society) because of the historic nature of the bridge.
The aging bridge was replaced due to structural issues. It had been repaired many times over the decades, but damage from flooding and age lessened the structural integrity.
City officials found it was more fiscally responsible to replace it than to repair it. In 2011, the city was notified a Nebraska Department of Transportation grant would help with $3.1 million project. The city’s share was around $560,000.
The council discussed different ways to display the bridge’s history. Options include installing a brass plaque or building a kiosk like the ones placed along the Saline Ford Trail, Quady said. Photographs must be a part of the marker.
“Somehow we have to incorporate photos,” she added.
Mayor Rick Grauerholz recommended incorporating a bench with the sign, since the public walking/biking trail runs next to the bridge.
Quady suggested reaching out to the industrial arts teacher at Ashland-Greenwood High School for help with the project.
The city administrator also mentioned that the fact that the old trusses have been placed very near to their former home may help offset the requirement to place a marker.
Two weeks ago, a construction company hired by local businessman Bob Luebbe set the trusses in the area of 13th and Adams streets, less than a block from the new bridge. The trusses will be used to mark the exit of a campground Luebbe is constructing in the area.
Luebbe purchased the trusses from the bridge contractor, Simon Contractors of North Platte, when they were removed in 2017. His plan to use the trusses came about after unsuccessful attempts by the city to sell or even give the trusses to a municipality or organization.
No decision was made by the council regarding the issue of commemorating the bridge’s history. The council asked Quady to contact History Nebraska to get more information and the high school about working with them on the project.
At the end of the meeting, Building/Zoning Official Lenora Isom discussed possible changes in building permit fees.
Isom proposed modifying the fee schedule for projects like sidewalk replacement at the request of the mayor. Isom said fees for sidewalk replacement projects could be calculated in a manner similar to roof replacement projects, where a permit is necessary but a fee is not charged.
If the property owner is building a new sidewalk, the fee would remain, Isom added.
Isom would also like to see changes to the ordinance regarding how the cost of a project is determined. Using a fee based on a set amount per square foot would create a more accurate representation of the cost of a project, she said.
Because none of the items Isom discussed with the council were on the agenda, the council could not vote on them. They will be on the agenda at an upcoming meeting.