The Suffield Board of Selectmen narrowly passed changes to plans for the repair of the Boston Neck Bridge Wednesday night, part of a lengthy meeting that also saw the group approve grant applications and a new emergency contact system for the town.
Town engineer Gerry Turbet sat with the selectmen as they discussed three items related to Boston Neck Bridge, recently closed due to a structural failure. The board had previously discussed the two major options for the bridge, replacement using mostly federal funds and repair using town funds. Both options will cost the town roughly $900,000.
Turbet recommended a repair of the bridge deck, leaving the current one-lane configuration. He noted that the bridge would be greatly upgraded structurally and be able to handle traffic from cars and tractor-trailers.
The total replacement option would widen the bridge to two lanes but take approximately five years. The repair time should take between six months and one year, Turbet said.
The vote on the repair option carried narrowly and split the selectmen along party lines, with Republicans Tim Reynolds, Joanne Sullivan and First Selectman Ed McAnaney casting votes for the plan and Democrats Eileen Moncrief and Brian Fitzgerald voting against.
“I think we’re moving in the wrong direction,” Fitzgerald said, expressing his opinion that the bridge, originally designed for horses and wagons, should have a modern replacement.
To further expedite the repairs, Turbet also recommended a one-time suspension of the usual bid process used by the town for engineering projects. That vote also passed, 3-2, along party lines. Turbet will use Anchor Engineering Services, the same firm that aided in the reconstruction of the Suffield Street Bridge, for the project.
The selectmen also moved to consolidate accounts from previous bridge projects for use with the Boston Neck Bridge repair. The consolidation, which needs to be approved by the Suffield Board of Finance, will yield more than $200,000 in funds for the project, expected to cost roughly $913,000.
Suffield Economic Development Coordinator Patrick McMahon presented applications for two Small Cities community development block grants to the board. The board approved the first proposal, for significant Americans with Disabilities Act improvements to Kent Memorial Library. An application for a multi-town plan for housing rehabilitation, also including Ellington and Somers, was approved as well.
Other business included a discussion on adding solar panels to town buildings and the approval of leases of town property near and on Hilltop Farm.