FEMA officials deny funding for 250th street bridge project
The Montgomery County Board of Supervisors and Montgomery County Secondary Roads are looking at alternative funding sources for the 250th Street bridge project.
The bridge is located on 250th street west of G Avenue over the East Nishnabotna River. A total replacement of the bridge is needed due to an enormous scour hole caused by the March 2019 flooding event. Due to the scour hole, subsequent loss of bearing occurred under two of the piles supporting the bridge, and due to the instability of two of the piers supporting the bridge, the bridge was closed.
Montgomery County engineer Karen Albert updated the supervisors on the status of the project at the regular Board of Supervisors meeting Oct. 26. The county had been seeking funding from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and was denied. The county appealed the decision, but Albert said no progress was made.
“We were told that the appeal was denied. I was under the assumption that we would have an opportunity for an additional appeal, however, I was incorrect, and that was our last ability to appeal to FEMA for the funding,” Albert explained.
While they had no other opportunities to seek FEMA funding, Albert said they were exploring other options.
“We are going to continue to try and find funding to replace this bridge. We understand the importance of the bridge and that it needs to be replaced. We’re not putting it on the back burner, we’re moving forward to try to find some other type of funding to replace that bridge. There is nothing more that can be done with FEMA,” said Albert.
The total cost of the bridge replacement is estimated at $2.5 million, making it a costly project for the county. Albert was hopeful they could find another funding alternative to help cover the costs, and that they were not pushing the project back on the project list.
“I want to reassure you all that it’s still very much a high priority, and urge you to keep your eyes open for any possible funding options that you can refer to me,” commented Albert.
Supervisor Randy Cooper suggested Albert contact U.S. Rep. Cindy Axne’s office, and Albert said she was planning on doing so. Also, she said the FEMA denial wasn’t unusual based on what she’s heard from others.
“I have contacted other area engineers and they tell me they’ve dealt with the same situation. It’s a common occurrence for FEMA to deny the majority of the projects, and so far, I haven’t spoken to anyone who hasn’t received a FEMA denial for the project they requested funding for,” Albert stated.
Supervisor Mike Olson said the supervisors may need to look into a bond issue vote for the cost of the project. Supervisors Chair Donna Robinson said that when they started their widening project on old Highway 34, there were safety funds offered through the DOT that provided matching funding.
“I remember our prior engineer, Brad Skinner, working hand-in-hand with them on the project, and that might be a funding avenue for the county to explore,” Robinson said.
Albert said there was an annual conference in December, and thought that might be another resource that would allow her to brainstorm with other engineers.
“They might have some suggestions, or maybe we’ll hear about some new funding options during that conference. At this point, we’ll just keep our eyes and ears open for the next couple of months to find out if something is available,” Albert advised.
Supervisor Mark Peterson asked if a bond issue was committed, the chance for receiving funds from any other avenues were gone. Olson agreed, but said the project had been delayed for quite awhile.
“We’re looking at another five or six months before we start, and this project has been on the radar for almost three years now. I think we need to look at all options at this time,” Olson commented.
Peterson suggested having affected landowners in the area of the bridge contact area legislators and explain the situation and put it on the radar, and possibly hold a meeting that included invites to area legislators or their representatives.