Harford poised to spend $2 million to repair damage, cover other costs from August deadly storm

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Harford County is poised to spend more than $2 million to repair roads and bridges that suffered damage during a severe Aug. 31 storm, as well as recoup some of the expenses incurred by the Division of Highways as its crews responded during and immediately after the storm.

Legislation necessary to transfer the funding within the budget and authorize spending it on storm-related costs is before the Harford County Council, which held a public hearing on it Tuesday night.

Harford was hit by a major rainstorm Aug. 31 that caused flash flooding throughout the area. Two people died because of the floodwaters, and about a dozen families have been displaced from their homes. County officials determined 47 residents had been affected by the storm.

Two pieces of legislation were introduced to the council Sept. 11 that, if approved, would allow the county government to reallocate funds to repair infrastructure in northern Harford.

Resolution 014-18 lays out four road and bridge capital projects in the northern end of the county that have a combined cost of $2.02 million.

Bill 18-041 amends the Highways Fund budget for fiscal 2019 by $2.12 million to cover the capital project as well as overtime and materials costs.

The council did not take action on either the bill or resolution during its legislative session that followed Tuesday’s hearings. It could take action next Tuesday, which will be its final legislative session before the Nov. 6 election.

During the hearing, Jeffrey Stratmeyer, chief engineer for the highways division, reviewed the capital requests and discussed his department’s response the night of Aug. 31 as the storm was happening and the cleanup that started early the following morning.

He said 20 roads were closed or undergoing a major cleanup as of 8 a.m. on Saturday, Sept. 1, the start of Labor Day weekend, but local infrastructure had been made passable and safe as of 5 p.m. the same day, Stratmeyer said.

The work picked up again Tuesday, Sept. 4, which coincided with the first day of school for Harford County Public Schools students. Stratmeyer said there was extensive communication between his department and school system officials, as some bus routes had been affected by storm damage.

“We mobilized all of our county crew members to go out and start doing the cleanup and start doing these repairs [Sept. 4],” he said.

There is still more long-term repair work that remains from the storm, though. The four capital projects detailed in Resolution 014-18 include $75,000 for repairs to roads such as Forge Hill Road, where an embankment was washed out, leaving guardrail posts exposed and “hovering” in the air, as described by Stratmeyer.

The highways division is also seeking funds for repairs to two Glen Cove Road bridges in the Darlington-Dublin area. The request is for $500,000 to repair bridge No. 155.

That bridge has been closed to traffic because flood waters scoured the steam bed, taking it from about 1 foot of water deep to 6 feet deep, putting the abutments at risk for further damage from the flowing water. Stratmeyer said the western abutment has been knocked out of line by about 4 feet and is “kind of hovering.”

To demonstrate, he made two piles of his old thick college textbooks and put a plastic bridge span across them as a model of the structure. He pushed the pile standing in for the damaged west abutment aside, causing the span to fall, indicating what would happen if a vehicle such as a large truck hit the abutment.

“We do not feel safe with any major traffic going over that [bridge],” Stratmeyer said.

He told council members he originally sought $500,000 for the design phase of a two- to three-year bridge replacement project. That time frame could be “drastically reduced,” though, as highways staff and engineers have found a new design in which the abutments could be repaired and made safe without replacing the entire bridge.

Stratmeyer declined to give a new time frame until a contractor has been brought on board.

“We still think that $500,000 will cover the repairs,” he said.

The department is seeking $1.2 million to repair bridge No. 156 on Glen Cove Road, which crosses Peddler Run, and the roadway surrounding the bridge.

Stratmeyer said the bridge survived the storm “fairly well.”

“It’s the road around the bridge that is in really bad shape,” he said.

The fourth project, $250,000 worth of repairs to culverts along Trappe Road, has been completed in-house by highways and drainage crews, Stratmeyer said. Highways division officials initially thought a contractor would be needed for the work, but staffers asked if they could take on the work themselves.

“They’ve done that work themselves and saved the county $250,000, approximately,” Stratmeyer said.

That project remains in the legislation despite the completion of the work in house.

Stratmeyer told Councilman Chad Shrodes, who said he has received multiple communications from Glen Cove Road residents about the status of their bridges, that he expects to advertise for bids to repair bridge 156 in four to eight weeks, start construction next year by late winter or early spring and then be finished by the fall of 2019.

He reiterated that he could not give a construction date for bridge 155 until a contractor is on board, but he would make the community aware once that timeline is determined.

Shrodes and Councilman Jim McMahan expressed their thanks to Stratmeyer and his staff for their work the night of the storm, during the aftermath and for taking on work to save the county taxpayers $250,000.

“Some of these roads were completely out [during the storm], and you had had some of them back in place when I was there the next day,” Shrodes said.

Stratmeyer said the highways crews “did outstanding work.”

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