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Harmar bridge updates

Possible pier inspection in near future for bridge

Photo by Janelle Patterson The Historic Harmar Bridge has remained turned since March 1, 2020, while scattered efforts to fundraise for its reopening, renovation or restoration have continued into the new year.

On Tuesday, Marietta City Council’s Lands, Buildings and Parks Committee spent the majority of its time discussing a historic landmark that once connected Marietta’s downtown to the Lower West Side.

But today the full legislative body will not introduce or vote upon grant efforts for the Historic Harmar Bridge.

“(For) the proposed legislation for the bridge, we’re talking about having a special meeting next week,” said LBP Chairman Bill Farnsworth on Wednesday after the 10:30 a.m. release of today’s council agenda did not include a resolution of support for a second state grant under consideration. “We don’t have exhibits or any paperwork or anything.”

The first dollars allocated to the bridge effort were the result of an application submitted into Ohio Sen. Frank Hoagland’s office last year.

That net the effort to reopen the landmark a $50,000 line item consideration in the state’s “Capital Item Analysis” published on Dec. 17, 2020.

On Dec. 21, Chuck Swaney, vice president of the Historic Harmar Bridge Company, the private group which owns the asset, stated that those funds would be used for an initial underwater pier inspection (the bridge closed on March 1, 2020, following concerns over the safety of the asset and the potential for collapse due to dead loads, pedestrian traffic has been rerouted to the Putnam Bridge for the foreseeable future.)

“My hope is that I will ask of the bridge company and any other partners, that we take that $50,000 and get a pier inspection done as soon as possible,” said Swaney.

That allocation through the Ohio Department of Natural Resources is titled “Harmar Pedestrian Bridge Restoration Project” and is 1.74 percent of the total capital budget earmarked for Washington County from multiple state agencies including the Ohio Facilities Construction Commission and Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services alongside:

¯ $150,000 for the Little Hocking Community Recreation Center.

¯ $200,000 for the Peoples Bank Theatre.

¯ $75,000 for the Hune Covered Bridge Relocation.

¯ $50,000 for the Anchorage Building Climate Control Project.

¯ $950,000 for the Ohio River Museum New Building.

¯ $1,183,806 for “basic renovations” at Washington State Community College.

¯ $200,000 for a Washington County Recreation and Support Center.

See future editions of the Times for analyses on these projects and other recreational earmarks for Monroe ($50,000 Ohio Township swimming pool), Morgan ($175,000 between Burr Oak State Park and McConnelsville) and Noble counties ($100,000 Caldwell ice rink).

Swaney was not on the call with council Tuesday, causing part of the apparent confusion in the video-conferenced legislative committee meeting.

HHBC Board Member Larry Sloter asked via Facebook comment to be let in to speak for the board rather than be represented by two guests to council who are not on the board of the bridge company.

“I did not like not having a board member for the bridge speaking on behalf of the bridge. It’s just not a good way to try to conduct business,” said Sloter.

In the meeting, Sloter clarified that the city would not be taking on ownership of the bridge in any proposal seeking blessing of grant funding.

“He brought some invaluable information at least for me, so I’m glad he was there,” said Farnsworth.

Questions remain as to proper sequence in and votes upon use agreements, financial pass-throughs and deliverables for a grant of $1.6 million hoped for, questions which Fourth Ward Councilman Geoff Schenkel said Wednesday would need to show a clear construction plan as well, to see his support.

Participatory public access

Before Finance Chairman Mike Scales closed his meeting Tuesday (and before LBP opened), he noted he will not allow press access into the video-conference tools used by his committee until told otherwise by City Law Director Paul Bertram.

But following Farnsworth’s meeting, the Lands, Buildings and Parks chairman said the experience of interpreting press questions via Facebook was less effective in creating understanding for the public.

“I am amicable to going back to the other way,” he said. “Now that I’m beginning to experience this new way. I’m certainly agreeable to helping facilitate better information because I think everyone’s bringing something to the table and I appreciate that… Tonight my mind changed (by) listening to people. And that’s what I’m there to do.”

See The Marietta Times next week, ahead of that coverage of the possible special council meeting, for a look into the history of the bridge and the use of the Ohio Department of Transportation’s funding of the Transportation Alternatives Program for other portions of local community recreation.

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