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City and county battling over who pays for bridge replacement


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COALVILLE -- A small bridge in Coalville is starting to be a big problem. Actually, it's been a problem for more than 10 years but is just starting to get serious attention.

The bridge is located on the west side of the main Coalville exit off Interstate 80. It needs to be replaced, and Coalville city says Summit County should pay for it.

City officials say there are big holes and cracks on the bridge where you can see the water below. The side railing is about to fall apart. It's become so bad, the city had to place weight limitations for those who cross.

"It is a public safety issue, and it needs to be replaced," says Coalville Mayor Duane Schmidt. "As far as ambulance and fire trucks, they cannot legally cross. So, yes, it is a major problem."

Engineers say the damage is from years of tractor-trailers crossing it. A stone quarry used to be in operation on the west side of the bridge.

But the west side belongs to Summit County, which issued a conditional-use permit for the stone quarry, even though the bridge is the only way in and out.

"They were the issuer of the conditional-use permit, and that permit has actually damaged the structure that belongs to Coalville city," Schmidt says.

The mayor says the cost for a new bridge that would be acceptable under Utah Department of Transportation guidelines would be about $900,000. The city can apply for grants, but the cost to Coalville taxpayers would still be about $180,000.

"That's not fair to the Coalville city taxpayers who have to have the burden of $180,000 for a bridge that leads to the county," Schmidt says.

He wrote a letter to Summit County asking for help, saying he was tired of Coalville residents bring treated like "second-class citizens" by the county.

"I called it like I seen it," Schmidt says. "I really think the county has responsibility here. I feel like we're getting the short end of the stick, and that needs to change."

But in a letter written back to Coalville, Summit County commissioners say the county is not responsible for the bridge.

"It is a city bridge, and it's Coalville's responsibility. The bridge is within Coalville city limits," says Summit County acting manager Brian Bellamy.

Bellamy says the county is willing to help Coalville find grant money, but the county won't, and can't, help with any money.

"We have thousands of miles of our own infrastructure we have to take care of. And in these tough times, it's hard to say, ‘Yeah, Coalville, we'll help your build your bridge.' That's not fair to the taxpayers of Summit County," Bellamy says.

He says county governments aren't responsible for city infrastructure.

"Where would it stop?" Bellamy asks.

Coalville says one option would be to close the bridge completely. They don't want to do that, but they don't have the money to fix it and they'd hate to see somebody get hurt here.

There are also two houses on the west side of he bridge; both are within Summit County boundaries.

Schmidt says, in the end, a lawsuit against the county may be the only way to get something done. He is meeting with Summit County officials this coming Monday.

E-mail: acabrero@ksl.com

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Alex Cabrero

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