JOHNSBURG - Residents of the Harrington Road area in the town of Johnsburg turned out in numbers at the town board meeting Tuesday evening to convey their concern with the plan to repair the bridge on Harrington Road.
The board eventually instructed highway superintendent Dan Hitchcock and volunteer engineer Jim Hutchins to move forward with existing plans, drafted in 2003 to repair the bridge.
"We encouraged community members to attend the meeting because we want to hear their opinions on the situation and do our best to accommodate them," Johnsburg Supervisor Sterling Goodspeed said.
After heavy flooding in March, the bridge on Harrington Road was closed indefinitely pending more attention from road crews andengineers, according to Hitchcock. Traffic has been rerouted around the failed bridge ever since.
The Harrington Road bridge has washed out three times in recent years due in part to beaver dams on Austin Pond that often give way and send water downstream that is beyond the capacity of the existing bridge. A break in the largest of the dams contributed to March's deluge.
"This is the worst it's ever been," said resident Eileen Sharp.
Hutchins suggested three options to the town board including replacing the bridge with a new bridge or culvert, making Harrington Road a dead-end and permanently rerouting traffic, or relocating Harrington Road to avoid the bridge altogether.
"No matter what we do, we are never going to avoid the threat of flood elevation at that location," he said.
Aside from repairing the bridge, town board members also addressed how to handle the beavers and beaver dams on Austin Pond. The town board came to a consensus that the beavers are the root of the problem and are responsible for the majority of the washouts.
"There is nothing more difficult than dealing with beavers within the Adirondack Park," said Goodspeed.
The problematic beaver dam is built on the private property of Andrew Smith and attempts by the town board to contact him have been futile. The town of Johnsburg is unable to deal with the dam without permission from the private landowner.
"The most recent flood came halfway up my driveway," said Wayne Schoonmaker. "This is a dangerous situation and needs to be taken care of."
Many residents presented other safety concerns and made clear to the board that a rerouted or dead-end road was not in their best interests.
"Without a bridge, it is very difficult to gain fire and ambulance access to many of the residences on Harrington Road," Bill Nickerson said.
In the coming days, Hitchcock and Hutchins will receive price quotes and appropriate permits to start breaking ground on repairing the existing bridge. Goodspeed, however, ensured residents that the town would not abandon attempts to contact Smith and resolve the problems caused by the beaver dams.