County staff was given permission at last week’s voting session to work with the Georgia Department of Transportation on installing a new one-lane bridge on Black’s Mill Road after the current bridge was closed by GDOT last month.
The Dawson County Board of Commissioners considered options presented to them Aug. 10 by Public Works Director David McKee that included constructing a new two-lane bridge or not reopening the bridge for the foreseeable future.
The board voted unanimously to attempt to utilize GDOT’s surplus bridge program and find a one-lane bridge that could replace the current one within the prescriptive right of way, a project McKee said would cost around $150,000 to $200,000.
According to McKee, the new bridge would not be weight restricted so that emergency services vehicles could travel over it, cutting down on response time that Chairman Billy Thurmond said could mean the difference between life and death in some instances.
The surplus bridge would also ensure that there was no encroachment on the area’s historic waterfall and rock quarry, which was the wish of Black’s Mill Road resident Kurt Krattinger, who has owned the property on both sides of the bridge since 1989 and who spoke at the Aug. 17 voting session.
Krattinger said that putting a two-lane bridge in was completely off the table.
“It would be a nightmare for the county as far as money and it would be hurtful to the area, we would have to condemn some of these ruins that are down there,” he said. “This is our heritage here.”
Krattinger held up a photograph he took of a painting that used to hang in Black’s Mill Elementary. It depicts Mr. and Mrs. Black on a carriage in front of the mill.
The bridge used to be a covered bridge until the steel beams of the wooden bridge were constructed in 1953, Krattinger said.
“I’m trying to preserve what I can of this,” he said.
Krattinger said he was in favor of a new single-lane bridge replacing the current bridge so that emergency personnel could more quickly access the residents of the area, as long as the historical significance of the bridge is preserved.
“We want to preserve the integrity of that,” District 1 Commissioner Sharon Fausett said before the vote. “We’ve got to preserve the essence of Dawson County. I know we’ve got to worry about public safety...but if we can do both won’t that be magical? I tell you once something is destroyed, rarely is it ever reclaimed.”
According to County Manager David Headley, staff will be back before the board later with more information on cost and the time frame for construction.