Closed to traffic for nearly 18 months, the historic Old Richardsville Road Bridge could soon receive repairs needed to allow vehicles to cross it once again.
Warren Fiscal Court on Friday approved spending $27,959 for American Engineers Inc. of Glasgow to develop structural design plans for repairing the one-lane bridge, which was closed in March 2018 after a Kentucky Transportation Cabinet inspector found structural deficiencies and closed the bridge that dates to the 19th century.
Warren County Public Works Director Josh Moore said AEI will develop plans for a bridge with an eight-ton weight capacity, meaning it should comfortably handle normal vehicular traffic. Before it was closed, the bridge was limited to three tons.
“The cheapest option was for pedestrian traffic only,” Moore said. “But we knew that wasn’t what the people in that community or fiscal court wanted.”
Moore said a preliminary estimate shows that repairing the county-maintained bridge to handle eight tons will cost about $600,000, but he said fiscal court should not have to bear that entire cost.
“I feel pretty confident that the state will be a partner, but I don’t know to what level,” Moore said. “Within the next two or three months we’ll know a whole lot more.”
The update on repairing the bridge that is on the National Register of Historic Places was welcomed by Fifth District Magistrate Mark Young, who represents that part of the county.
“I’m glad we’re finally seeing some progress,” Young said. “It has been a long process, but I think we’re doing it the right way. We’ve taken our time and have found people with knowledge of that type of bridge.”
In addition to again providing vehicular access to homes on Old Richardsville Road, the bridge repair will preserve a part of the county’s history.
“It’s something you can’t ever get back,” said Ross Richey, who in 2015 bought the Ironwood Farm property along Old Richardsville Road that was once owned by the late David Garvin. “I’m all for progress, but some parts of our history are worth preserving. People who live along this road feel strongly that we need to preserve it (the bridge).”
Because excess weight may have contributed to the bridge’s problems, Moore said efforts will be made to ensure that the repaired bridge isn’t subjected to vehicles that are too heavy.
“There will be an educational component about how to use this bridge safely,” he said. “We’ll do what we can to ensure that this thing is around for another 20 years or more.”
In addition to moving the bridge repair forward, the magistrates also took action on setting local property tax rates for the 2019-20 fiscal year and refinanced bonds that should save the county on interest payments.
The magistrates approved a real property tax rate of 14.5 cents per $100 of assessed value, a personal property rate of 18.85 cents per $100 and a motor vehicle/watercraft tax of 16.2 cents per $100 – all unchanged from the current year.
Despite keeping the tax rates the same, county Treasurer Greg Burrell is projecting an increase in tax revenue for the coming year, thanks to the county’s growth.
He expects revenue from the real property tax to jump from $13.02 million to $13.85 million, a 6.39 percent increase. Personal property and motor vehicle receipts should rise at similar rates, he said.
“New construction is the biggest reason (for the increase in tax revenue),” Burrell said. “But we’ve had an increase in assessed values as well.”
The magistrates also signed off on rates set by four taxing districts – Warren County Public Library, Conservation District, Health Department and Extension District – that remained unchanged or are dropping slightly from this year.
“We’re pleased to be able to hold the line on tax rates, thanks to the growth in the county,” Sixth District Magistrate Ron Cummings said.
The county’s growth played a role in another financial action taken Friday. The magistrates approved a refinancing of bonds that Burrell said could save the county nearly $2.4 million over the next two decades.
The bonds – for the downtown parking garage and the Southern Kentucky Performing Arts Center building – are being refinanced from a rate of 4.23 percent to 2.88 percent, Burrell said. That should mean a savings of $125,000 per year on the bonds, which mature in 2038.
“It’s a combination of lower interest rates and our credit rating,” Burrell said in explaining the refinancing.
Warren County’s bond rating was upgraded by Moody’s Investors Service from Aa2 to Aa1 last year, putting the county in exclusive company and making it more attractive to investors.
Also on Friday, the magistrates approved spending $3,250 to Rabold Environmental for material testing and inspection at the City-County Planning Commission building at 1141 State St.