Historic bridge restored in Monroe County

T-L Photo/JANELL HUNTER Monroe County Engineer James Fleeman, from left, Commissioner Mick Schumacher, Foraker family heir Ethel Sloan and Commissioners Carl Davis and Tim Price celebrate the re-opening of the newly repaired/restored historic Foraker covered bridge with a ribbon-cutting Monday.

WOODSFIELD – The Foraker Covered Bridge in Monroe County just received a $215,000 makeover that should keep the historic structure functioning for many more years.

The bridge spans the Little Muskingum River on Plainview Road just south of Woodsfield.

A ribbon-cutting held Monday marked the official re-opening of the bridge, which has been closed since Sept. 15 for repair, restoration and upgrades. The Monroe County Board of Commissioners – Mick Schumacher, Carl Davis and Tim Price – officiated the opening along with James Fleeman of the county engineer’s office. Ethel Sloan, a 96-year-old Foraker family heir and Woodsfield resident, cut the ribbon.

“The two Foraker brothers, Charlie and George, lived on this land and helped build the bridge in 1886,” said Sloan.

The county engineer’s office did the repair/restoration work funded by a grant from the Ohio Department of Transportation. A total of $165,000 was provided by the state, and the county provided a $50,000 match. The Woolpert Construction Co., an architectural firm with more than 30 years of experience with historic bridges, drew up the plans for the project. Righter Inc., a general contractor out of Columbus, Ohio, won the bid for the construction.

“We stopped the structural deficiency before it got to the point where we would have to drop the tonnage over the bridge, but the bridge had a weakness that was best to be repaired now so that it didn’t cost as much money later on,” said Fleeman.

The bridge is rated for 15 tons.

“The replacement timbers were sourced in the county. … That was one thing Lonnie Tustin (county engineer) wanted to make sure we did,” said Fleeman. “This is definitely a slice of history, an important part of our local heritage.”

In other business, Monroe County Fair Board President John Ackerman told the commissioners that 8 acres of county-owned fairground property will be negotiated for a lease/royalty oil and gas contract with Gulfport Energy.

“We have executive rights to the 8-acre parcel for lease, but you will receive royalties off of that,” said Ackerman. “The royalty money will be spent to retire debt and make capital improvements, and to get in good financial shape. The amount we get from the lease will be just enough to pay utility bills.”

Ackerman said the fair board received some help last year via a $50,000 grant from the Ohio Department of Agriculture that the county had to match 100 percent. The funds were used to build the Rowley Exhibition Building at the fairgrounds.

A motion was made by Davis for the county to split the royalties 50-50 with the fair board for whatever terms will be  negotiated with Gulfport. Ackerman will consult with county Prosecutor James Peters to make sure the agreement meets the commissioners’ requirements.

The commissioners adjourned at noon Monday to leave for a Council of Governments meeting in Caldwell, Ohio.

“We are part of Area 15, which is Monroe, Noble, Morgan and Washington counties. A lot of Job and Family Services funding comes through the the COG, especially workforce development,” said Davis.