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Hilltown Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, August 5, 2010

For Berne bridge
Federal funding is up in the air

By Zach Simeone

BERNE — While the town had once expected federal funding for replacement of the Kaehler Lane Bridge, Berne may end up having to foot the bill.

A spokesman for Congressman Paul Tonko’s office told The Enterprise this week that, while the congressman is still pushing to get Berne its funding for the project, it will certainly not happen this year, if it ever does.

The Kaehler Lane Bridge is the only way for residents of Kaehler and Chrysler lanes to cross the Foxenkill. While such bridges are typically built to a 40-ton standard, the condition of this bridge has caused the weight limit to rise and fall multiple times over the years, the lowest point being last December, when it was posted at three tons. This raised concerns of whether residents would get fire protection, or be able to transport hay crops, logged wood, and oil.

Tonko’s federal transportation requests for 2010 included a $234,000 earmark for replacement of the Kaehler Lane Bridge, and the town’s 2010 budget contains a $216,000 increase in highway department revenues in anticipation of that grant money. Berne’s budget for this year totaled $2.3-million. But the grant was not awarded this year.

“This project has been submitted for the transportation reauthorization bill, which contains all spending for highway and infrastructure improvements,” said Beau Duffy, a spokesman for Congressman Tonko. “So, it wasn’t part of the appropriations process for 2010…That transportation reauthorization has not been acted on yet. They did extend the solvency of the Highway Trust Fund, which does funding for all kinds of highway infrastructure projects, but the bill has not been acted on yet.”

However, even if that money does eventually become available, the town may no longer be eligible to receive it, as federally funded projects like this one must follow certain guidelines.

“From what I understand,” Supervisor George Gebe said this week, “we’d have to spend a lot more money to follow their regulations in order to get the money.”

Said Duffy, “Federal grants, especially for infrastructure, have to be built a certain standard,” though he was unsure of what those standards specifically were.

In March, the Berne Town Board awarded the bridge reconstruction was awarded to Town and County Bridge and Rail, which submitted the lowest bid for the project at $155,657.

At the July meeting, Gebe presented a timeline for the project, with construction set to begin on July 19, and to be completed by Aug. 16.

Also at the meeting, Gebe reported to the town board on his research of interest rates on loans from different banks, in lieu of the federal grant. The lowest rate on a one-year bond anticipation note was 1.1 percent, while the lowest on a five-year statutory installment bond was 2.375 percent. But the board decided to keep looking.

“We hope and expect that the bill will be passed into law by the end of the year,” Duffy said this week. “The town of Berne is definitely on our list, and we’re still going to advocate for this money.”

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