For the first time in 13 years the Salisbury Viaduct will undergo a safety inspection.
The Somerset County commissioners unanimously approved a proposal for engineering services from The EADS Group of Somerset for $25,200 to inspect the 101-year-old bridge now used by pedestrians and bikers on the Great Allegheny Passage. The amount is included in the 2012 county budget.
“The Salisbury Viaduct is a premier structure on the trail,” county trail coordinator Brett Hollern said. The viaduct is nearly 1,900 feet long and at some places rises at least 120 feet above the valley floor.
“The safety inspection will ensure the viaduct is safe as we move forward,” he said.
The viaduct was built with huge iron girders set in concrete piers, some 60 feet into the ground. It stretches across the Casselman River Valley, the mainline of the CSX railroad, as well as old Route 219 and the proposed four-lane Route 219.
“We will be rappelling down in spider chairs from each of the 19 piers,” said EADS structural engineering department head Owen Beachy.
“We will use visual observation looking for any safety defects, safety deficiencies or structural defects,” he said.
There will also be an inspection from the ground to check the connection of the towers to the concrete, he said.
There is no specific concern about the structure. This is a routine inspection that protects the county’s interest in one of its assets, Beachy indicated.
“We are not much concerned with the load capacity of the bridge, which was built to handle loaded train cars,” he said.
The inspection is planned for sometime in mid-May. It will not close the viaduct to hikers and bikers, Beachy said.
For $1 the commissioners gave Garrett Borough the right of way on land adjacent to the Great Allegheny Passage. The borough needs to relocate a water line for a bridge construction project.
“It is the corner of our parking lot in the area along Berlin Street and will not impact on the trail one iota,” Hollern said.
Trail maintenance will be performed by both Larry Adams, of Meyersdale, who has been doing the work for the county for about six or seven years, and Travis Robison, of Rockwood, who will take over the work when Adams retires later this year. The commissioners agreed to pay Adams $20 an hour not to exceed 150 hours and Robison $15 an hour not to exceed 500 hours, so that Adams will have the time to train Robison.
“The money for trail maintenance comes out of the hotel tax money,” Commissioner John Vatavuk said. “None comes out of the general fund.”
On Tuesday the commissioners also ratified advertising for bids to repair the Somerset County Jail roof. The vote was 2-1, with Commissioners John Vatavuk and Pamela Tokar-Ickes voting yes and Commissioner Joe Betta voting no.
“I think it is a waste of our time and money,” Betta said Wednesday. “The jail is archaic. There is a mold problem in it. It is difficult to manage. This is the third time to fix the roof. It is time we get serious about a new jail.”
In other business the commissioners:
* appointed Steve Spochart, executive director of the Somerset County Redevelopment Authority, as the county’s fair housing officer for 2013.
* hired Mollie Walker of Friedens as fiscal technician at the Area Agency on Aging for $17,238 annually effective Monday.
* accepted the retirement of Karen Ritchey of Somerset as deputy administrator for the Area Agency on Aging on April 12.
* promoted Edythe Zschoche of Windber from aging care manager to aging care management supervisor at the Area Agency on Aging at $28,038 annually effective Monday.
* promoted Jamie Hull of Hollsopple from part-time community service crew leader to probation officer at the probation department for $25,979 annually.
* appointed Sonya Augustine from acting to full-time chief clerk in commissioners’ office. The Somerset County Salary Board voted Tuesday to increase Augustine’s salary from $29,553 to $37,000 effective April 15.
* paid $1,214,639.65 in bills.