The Washington City Council is reviving the controversial Camp Street bridge project.
Monday night, council members voted, 6 to 2, to include the project in the 2012-13 fiscal year budget. The new budget will take effect Oct. 1.
The two no votes were cast by Connie Groff and Walt Meyer. Members Mark Hidritch, Jeff Mohesky, Steve Sullentrup, Tim Brinker, Joe Holtmeier and Josh Brinker voted to proceed with the project.
The council also authorized the staff to negotiate with property owners for necessary easements. City Administrator Jim Briggs said the easements could be negotiated this summer and the bridge constructed in 2013.
The vote to resurrect the project came after the council discussed whether or not to send out a questionnaire to citizens to gauge possible support for the bridge as well as a proposed annexation plan and the city funding a share of the cost to upgrade Augusta Bottom Road if a federal grant is approved for that project.
The council took no action on the questionnaire.
Prior to the motion by Hidritch to add the Camp Street bridge to the next budget, Groff suggested the city “investigate” the possibility of building a bridge off of International Avenue to access the Schroepfer farm. She said she doesn’t feel the city has studied other “possibilities” besides constructing the Camp Street bridge.
Briggs said city officials did meet previously with Charlie Schroepfer and officials with MoDOT and the Missouri Department of Natural Resources to discuss a bridge from International. Because a bridge would cross part of the Burger Park property — which was acquired with state and federal grant funds — the DNR would require comparison appraisals on the value of the property before and after a bridge project.
“There’s a lot of things that would have to be done,” Briggs said. The DNR also would want funds donated to replace parkland taken for the bridge project.
After those discussions, Schroepfer was not interested in pursuing it further, Briggs told the council.
Mohesky said a bridge to the Schroepfer property could end up costing the city more than the Camp Street bridge. Every time the idea has been brought up it hit a “dead end” with Schroepfer, he added.
Briggs said all parties involved would have to “come to the table,” and be prepared to cooperate on such a project.
He said traffic engineers who studied the proposal recommended that an access road off of International be located a minimum of 600 to 700 feet north of the Highway 100 intersection while Schroepfer wanted to locate it within 300 feet of Highway 100.
Briggs said he would contact Schroepfer to discuss such a project again. The council may want to build both projects to provide even more access to that area, he added.
The city already has engineering and design plans for the Camp Street bridge which were prepared at a cost of almost $70,000. Funds for the bridge were allocated in previous budgets and a construction contract was awarded before the council scuttled the project in May 2008 after a contentious debate.
The city was forced to pay the winning contractor more than $4,000 to get out of the contract.
Building a new bridge to replace the one destroyed decades ago has been endorsed by city staff, the planning and zoning commission and police, fire and ambulance officials, but was opposed by a group of residents in the Camp Street neighborhood. It has been in the city’s comprehensive plan for years.
After the contract was awarded by resolution — with the mayor breaking a 3-3 tie — a group of property owners filed a lawsuit challenging the city’s action. The contractor also filed suit.
A heated debate over whether or not to rebuild the bridge raged for months. Many of the opponents along Camp Street, north of the creek, and adjoining streets feared that building the bridge would open up their neighborhood to traffic from the Wal-Mart SuperCenter that was approved several years earlier.
The contract that was awarded — and later rescinded — totaled $568,773.50 which was far below the engineer’s estimate of $770,000.
That amount included the cost of the bridge — $218,588 — along with Camp Street improvements south of the creek.
While the city eliminated the bridge, the street improvements were constructed later.