Decaying bridges in Hopkinton will get temporary replacements while awaiting permanent structures
Friday, December 6, 2019 - 1:22 pm

This photo taken over the summer shows the decay beneath one of the two Jones Road bridges that will be replaced. Photo submitted by St. Lawrence County Highway Department.

BY ANDY GARDNER
North Country This Week

CANTON -- Two decaying bridges on Jones Road in Hopkinton will be replaced, but the proposal drew a long debate from county legislators before they voted to approve it.

Most of the board members supported the action, but a couple more conservative members thought it would set a bad spending precedent.

The board voted 12-2 at their Monday, Dec. 2 meeting to pay $135,000 to J.E. Sheehan construction company to install the two bridges. Legislator Tony Arquiett, D-Helena, said that the county will have to spend $48,000. The St. Lawrence County Snowmobile Association is chipping in $5,000. Another $82,000 "is being applied from capital project accounts that have been funded over the years from grants and in-kind contributions specifically for the purposes of multi-use trail purposes," according to Dylan Soper, assistant county administrator.

County Highway Superintendent Don Chambers said the county will be responsible for removing the bridges when it's time to build a permanent bridge. He estimates that will cost around $30,000, which will include paying Highway Department workers and renting a crane.

The dissenting votes came from legislators Kevin Acres, R-Madrid, and David Forsythe, R-Lisbon.This photo taken over the summer shows the deck of one of the two Jones Road bridges to be replaced in the near future. Photo submitted by St. Lawrence County Highway Department.

The existing bridges are along the county's Multi-Use Trail and are deteriorating.

The two dissenters argued that paying to set up a bridge on a temporary seasonal road only used by snowmobilers in the winter could set an expensive precedent.

"It's my understanding it's 16 miles to get around to the alternate end of the trail," Acres said. "From my understanding for snowmobilers it's not a large deal."

"I can't support it based on the numbers. How many snowmobiles go over the trail?" Forsythe said.

The legislators who spoke in favor said they believe the benefit to businesses in the affected area, and the reputation of the trail itself, is worth the expense.

"I think all of us would have embraced other ideas, had they been equally as effective or cheaper for the taxpayers ... narrow window of opportunity to construct the temp bridge and have it in place for this snowmobile season," said Legislator John Burke, R-Norfolk. "We're now left with either supporting the trail system ... or we're not going to support it, at least in my mind."

"I think while we're all concerned about costs. I think over the long term it's important we provide a seamless experience to visitors so they tell their friends and they tell others what a great place we have in St. Lawrence County," said Legislator James Reagan, R-Ogdensburg. "It's not a good idea to create a 16-mile detour" when the 2020 trails map can't be changed.

"If we start shutting them down or not supporting them, we're going to lose the confidence of all the businesses that want to start up or are there now, and we're going to lose the outside tourism," said Legislator Rick Perkins, D-Potsdam. "We've been trying to establish this countywide multi-use trail system for around 15 years now, which supports many mom and pop stores with a small number of employees.

"We've seen the fruition from the Bassmaster (fishing tournament) ... people are coming year-round to fish. It's the same with this."