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Black's Mill Bridge declared 'functionally obsolete'
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Dawson County commissioners are debating what to do about Blacks Mill Bridge, which has been classified as functionally obsolete.

Public Works Director David Headley told commissioners he recommended closing and abandoning Blacks Mill Bridge. The Georgia Department of Transportation has classified the bridge as "functionally obsolete."

Headley used the analogy of an entertainment center to define functionally obsolete.

"You take these entertainment centers when you now have flat-screens (televisions), that system has become functionally obsolete," he said.

He estimated the close would affect 150 cars a day. Those commutes would increase by about seven minutes or five miles.

The cost of closing the bridge is about $1,000. Dawsonville resident Kurt Krattinger, who owns property adjoining the bridge, told commissioners he would give them the right-of-way to create a turnaround if they choose to abandon the bridge.

Another option, Headley said, was to rehabilitate the bridge by cleaning, sandblasting and repainting bridge beams, replacing the bridge deck and installing guardrails. That work would cost $40,000.

The third option is to replace the bridge and build a two-lane paved road over it, Headley said. The cost would be $325,000.

District 1 Commissioner Gary Pichon said he would be concerned about replacing the bridge with a double-lane.

"The problem you have is that's a gorgeous piece of property with a bunch of antique rockwalls. ... If you want to bring it up to a modern two-lane, he said, you'll just destroy all that property."

Pichon said he wouldn't be opposed to looking into replacing the bridge with a single lane.

Pichon and Commission Chairman Mike Berg also expressed concern over the safety of the bridge.

"As far as the bridge goes, if you drive less than a five-ton vehicle across it, it's safe, Headley said. If you drive a fire truck or school bus across it, its not safe."

School buses and fire trucks do not cross the bridge anyway, Headley said.

Whatever option the commission approves at its July 2 session, a public hearing will be held.

Commissioners also found out at the work session that they have an opportunity to receive money from Georgia Department of Transportation to repair damages caused by flooding on May 19.

County Engineer Corey Gutherie told commissioners the GDOT has committed up to $200,000 to repair road damage in Dawson County. The money comes from the department's Local Maintenance and Improvement grant. It requires a 30 percent match by the county, but in-kind labor and equipment can be included in the match.

Etowah River Road received the most damage from the floods. The estimated cost to repair would be $500,000. The road is closed for now. Other road repairs would cost about $149,500. If the commissioners decide to permanently close Etowah River Road, money from the grant could be used to build a cul-de-sac turnaround.

Commissioners are expected to vote on both items at their session July 2 at 6 p.m. in the Dawson County Government Center assembly room.