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Black's Mill Bridge to remain open
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Members of the Black's Mill community spoke, and the Dawson County commissioners listened at Tuesday's voting session.

"Please hear our cries about closing the bridge on Black's Mill Road as it will affect many taxpaying citizens in many ways," Cathy Holcomb, a resident of Wildwood Court, said.

Holcomb said she was concerned about safety, property values and homeowners insurance.

"If the bridge on Black's Mill Road is closed down, safety can be an issue because police and ambulances will have to travel farther when tragedy strikes," she said.

Having emergency services farther away would also cause nearby residents homeowners insurance to go up and property values to go down, she said.

Public Works Director David Headley had recommended in a work session last week that commissioners vote to close the bridge until the county has money to bring it up to standards of the Georgia Department of Transportation. The bridge, last inspected by GDOT in July of 2011, has been classified as "functionally obsolete." It was given a sufficiency rating of 44.78 out of 100 by GDOT.

A sufficiency rating is a scale GDOT uses to determine structural conditions of a bridge. It measures safety serviceability, functional obsolescence and structural adequacy.

Being "functionally obsolete," doesn't necessarily mean the bridge is unsafe. It means the bridge has served its purpose as far as its design life goes.

"Is the bridge likely to catastrophically fail structurally?" District-1 Commissioner Gary Pichon asked. "That is, if a car drives over it, is the bridge likely to collapse and the car go into the stream?"

County Engineer Corey Gutherie said the bridge is sound.

"The main structure of the bridge is intact," Gutherie told commissioners.

However, the guardrails on the bridge are not strong enough to keep a car from falling off if it veered off the road.

The bridge was built in 1953, and as far as anyone in attendance knew, no one has run off the bridge.

Pichon made a motion to leave the bridge open and put up sufficient signage and orange barrels to let the public know the bridge doesn't have adequate guardrails. He also moved to ask county engineers to develop a plan for side rails and to eventually fix the bridge sufficiently.

Commissioners James Swafford and Jimmy Hamby voted in favor of the motion. Commissioner Julie Nix was absent.

"Y'all be real careful," Pichon told the two rows of Black's Mill Bridge residents who attended the meeting.