The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

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September 30, 2013

Group hopes to save 120-year-old bridge

KALONA — A group of area residents hopes their fundraising efforts can save a more than 120-year-old Washington County bridge from destruction.

The Iowa City Press-Citizen reports that while members of Friends of Bunker Mill Bridge say they are making solid headway on raising the $5,000 needed to perform an engineering study on the historic bridge, the actual cost of repair could be more than $150,000.

A 2007 study of the Bunker Mill Bridge — which spans the English River just south of Kalona on Nutmeg Avenue — estimated restoration, including new decking and railings, to allow pedestrian traffic on the 1887 structure would cost about $130,000. The work also would bring the bridge up to date with accessibility standards.

However, suspected arson to the bridge in August has officials now estimating those updates to be much more costly.

“It was going to have to have substantial work, to the tune of $130,000 to $150,000,” Kalona City Administrator Ryan Schlabaugh said. “Now with the damage that’s occurred, there hasn’t been a true structural engineer to take a look at it and determine what those costs would be now.”

That hasn’t deterred Friends of Bunker Mill Bridge from conducting a fundraising campaign to get an updated estimate for the study.

“We’ve already raised $1,200,” the group’s managing director, Suzanne Micheau, said last week. “People are just writing us checks, it’s not going to be hard to accomplish.”

Micheau said the final goal is to purchase the bridge from the county and raise the money to restore it.

The nonprofit group organized earlier this month after rumors began circulating that county officials were discussing demolition.

Firefighters responded early Aug. 11 to a fire on the bridge. The flames had spread out of control by the time firefighters arrived at the rural road just south of town, leaving the wooden bridge damaged. Fire officials have said they suspect arson.

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