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Not going to cross that bridge

December 17, 2004|by CANDICE BOSELY

martinsburg@herald-mail.com

MARTINSBURG, W.VA. - Saying they do not "have any dog in this fight," members of the Berkeley County Commission and their attorney declined on Thursday to become involved in a problem involving a dilapidated bridge.

Because of new weight restrictions, ambulances and fire trucks can no longer cross the Plank Bridge Road bridge, which is not owned by the county or the state, the commissioners said. The bridge apparently is owned by those people who live in a community on the other side of Mill Creek, the commissioners said.

"If it's their bridge, it's their problem," the commissioners' attorney, Norwood Bentley, said. "The county, legally, as (Commissioner) Howard (Strauss) put it, doesn't have any dog in this fight."

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Officials with the state Division of Highways assessed the bridge, in Bunker Hill, W.Va., in the southern end of the county, and declared no vehicles that weigh more than 3 tons can cross it, said Steve Allen, director of the Berkeley County Office of Emergency Services.

The county's ambulances weigh between 10 tons and 12 tons each, said Gary Collis, head of the Ambulance Authority.

"It's a very dangerous bridge" that has become more dilapidated over the years, Allen said.

Some trucks have been bypassing the bridge and driving through the creek instead, which raises environmental concerns, Allen said. He said workers of at least one fuel company have indicated they might no longer deliver fuel to anyone on the other side of the creek - which could be a problem now that winter weather is here.

There's another possible solution, but Allen said it could be tenuous. A road that appears to be abandoned connects an adjacent subdivision to residents across the bridge. Residents in the neighboring subdivision, Bunker Hill Heights, have blocked off the abandoned road with concrete debris. It appears to be used as an area for recreation, Allen said.

The commissioners did not discuss pursuing that possible solution.

The discussion ended with the commissioners telling Allen that the 20 families and one business owner who live across the bridge need to update the structure if they want to have fire and ambulance service.

None of the affected residents spoke at the meeting. Allen brought the issue to the commission's attention through an e-mail he wrote on Dec. 8.

"The problem has now escalated to a possible 'emergency' situation, to which the commission must respond to," Allen wrote in the e-mail.

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