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Timber a good match

Government agencies often have to make unpopular decisions, adhering strictly to established policies rather than using common sense.

It initially appeared that would be the case in Monroe County, where the Ohio Department of Transportation denied an unusual request regarding matching funds for a grant. Fortunately, though, ODOT officials reconsidered and decided on a more reasonable course of action.

Monroe County is home to the Knowlton Covered Bridge, a historic structure that largely collapsed in July 2019 before it could be renovated as planned. At that point, ODOT already had agreed to provide funds to help rehabilitate the 1887 span that stretched 195 feet across the Little Muskingum River. The second longest covered bridge in Ohio, the structure along Ohio 26 near Graysville had received repairs in 1995 but was only open to pedestrian traffic. It was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1980.

Because it is a significant structure, county and state officials are working together to ensure it will be rebuilt for future generations to admire and enjoy. ODOT already has agreed to provide about $950,000 for the project — so long as the Monroe County Board of Commissioners can come up with a $45,000 match.

County leaders came up with a creative and practical solution to that challenge. They plan to harvest county-owned white oak timber to use for reconstruction of the bridge’s trusses.

Earlier this month, an ODOT official told commissioners the department could not accept the contribution of native timber as the county’s match. Instead, he told them, that match needed to come in the form of cash.

Several days later, however, ODOT spokeswoman Ashley Rittenhouse announced that the county will not be required to provide any monetary funding. Instead, ODOT will accept the timber and pay for the total cost.

That was a wise move. Lumber of that type is expensive no matter where it is obtained. It makes sense to rebuild the bridge using native Monroe County timber.

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