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Bridge Watch Tutorial Meeting Minutes - January 26,
The meeting was held in Berlin, Vt. at the VAOT Laboratory conference room and led by
John Weaver. It was called to order at 1:15 p.m. In attendance were: John Weaver, Joe Nelson,
Neil Daniels, Bob Coburn, Jane George, Ron Bechard, Bill McKone, Wilfred Thompson, and
Betty Truman. A slide show of Vt. covered bridges was shown. Bridge Watch booklets and
course materials were distributed to attendees.
John stated that covered bridges are inspected every 2
years, but only if they are part of the public road system. Bridges privately owned, or not being
presently used, are not looked at by inspectors.
Neil Daniels advised the attendees they could buy a
copy of the 1995 Consultant Report from their town office by paying the cost of copying. The
Town Clerk is the custodian of the report. This report will have info about the bridges in their
area and would be very helpful. It is highly recommended that each bridge watch person have this
report. AOT also has copies.
Ron Bechard asked what guidelines towns need to
follow when restoring covered bridges in order to receive federal funds. John answered that the
State Historic Preservation has guidelines, tied into the National Preservation effort, and the
Federal Highway Administration recognizes the State Preservation Office and their guidelines.
Before the Federal Highway Administration will commit any money they want the State Historic
Preservation to sign off on a proposal. That goes "hand in hand" to getting any federal
John stated that bridge watch people could go to a
town in their area and offer their services for traffic control, etc. when the town is in the process
of restoring a bridge. Neil Daniels commented that people in an area could get together as a group
in getting a work party together, or "bird dog" the selectmen and road foreman to see that they do
what you determine should get done. John stated that different towns will receive you and your
input in different ways. This could depend on their insurance coverage and whether or not you
would be covered in case of an accident.
Ron Bechard asked what the liability situation is for
VCBS members on a bridge watch duty. John answered that it would depend on what that
particular town has for insurance coverage since the town is the bridge owner. Joe Nelson stated
the VCBS use only people who volunteer their services. "We don't send anyone." Neil stated
that if you're in an area at risk it would be best to take the position of forcing the town to do the
work since they are insured. Bill McKone suggested a plan be developed by VCBS such as a
standard "sandwich board" set up on both sides of a bridge being worked on, that would notify
drivers that VCBS members are working around and inside the bridge. Neil said that VCBS work
party people could go to their town and borrow the stop/slow sign and have a bridge watch
person regulate traffic in that manner. Safety is an upmost concern for anyone working on bridge
Joe asked about utilizing local Boy Scout
Organization to help with cleaning around covered bridges. After the clearing, the brush could be
transported via pick up trucks to a central location where a chipper has been set up. Perhaps the
town road crew could be asked to operate their chipper and do that portion of the clean up
Anyone becoming a bridge watch person should meet
with the select board of that town, and together, come up with a plan of where we are and where
we want to be in 20 years concerning their covered bridges. Bridge watch persons could point out
to the select board what needs to be done in order to maintain the bridge for use and for
Neil recommended that every bridge watch person go
to their Town Hall and get documents of the most recent Federal Mandated Bridge Inspection
done by Montpelier. Even earlier documents would be helpful as some mandates are "built on
previous mandates". This would also make bridge watchers aware what the town has been told
they must do to fix a bridge and you could see if the town has done these mandates. Bridge
watchers could be part of that enforcement program. Snow loads are something that bridge
watchers should keep an eye on. Towns are sometimes lax on this. Are approach rails in
reasonable condition? According to John, towns can get grants to repair approach rails and to put
roofing on their bridges. Some town select boards need to be made aware that these grants are
available. If you see someone do damage to a bridge, and they can be caught, they will be liable
for the damage. The driver's insurance companies should be notified.
A discussion was held concerning proper load limits.
The select board usually installs a sign stating the proper load limit on a recommendation from the
AOT professional engineers. Neil stated there are times when select boards will go with a higher
load limit than a bridge that is being worked on will tolerate. If this happens the person working
on renovating the bridge has no choice but to do more extensive structure member replacement
than planned. John stated the town has the right to post less than 16,000 lbs. if they wish.
Neil stated the ideal situation would be to have 2 or 3
people in a bridge watch group in their town who are recognized and respected by the select
board and who would be invited by the select board before budget forming time to address the
select board concerning needed money for work and repair on the covered bridges. Bridge
watching is extremely important because this is one way to make towns accountable and not let
bridges deteriorate to where extensive repair and a lot of money is needed to bring them back to a
It was the consensus of the assembled group that
bridge watch people should come from the town where the bridge is located. These people are the
taxpayers and voters of that town and are more likely to be welcomed by the select board.
Joe suggested that VCBS members make themselves
known to local Historical Societies and local Chamber of Commerce groups to perhaps create
some interest and help from them in caring for our covered bridges. Wilfred Thompson suggested
film presentations be offered to these other organizations. It would be an opportunity to show
them the condition of their bridges and offer ideas on how they could help.
Neil Daniels advised those assembled that the
National Park Association is embarking on a national covered bridge research project for the
Federal Highway Administration. This is in addition to the one the Federal Highway is currently
doing (a separate group). A meeting is being held in Washington, D.C. the first part of Feb. and
Mr. Daniels has been invited to attend, which he is planning to do.
Mr. Weaver hopes that bridge watch people will
notify him via mail or e-mail when work has been done on a bridge in their area. There is a
checklist which was distributed at the workshop which can be used as a form. The form could be
sent in quarterly.
Many Bridge-watch areas are in need of people to
step forward and become a bridge watch person.
The meeting adjourned at 3:30 p.m. This transcript made by Ruth Nelson.
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Joe Nelson, P.O Box 267, Jericho, VT 05465-0267, firstname.lastname@example.org
This file posted February 21, 2002