Saturday, May 9, 2015

Talking for the Bridge

Barstow resident Ira Gwin watches vehicles traveling over the First Street Bridge on Thursday. Gwin wants that the city to conduct studies exploring the feasibility of alternate routes over the railroad yard and the Moajve River and alternate use of the old bridge. (Mike Lamb, Desert Dispatch)

By Mike Lamb
Staff Writer

BARSTOW — Ira Gwin is demanding the city conduct studies on the feasibility of protecting the old First Street bridge from the wrecking ball.

And so is fellow Mojave River Valley Museum member David Mott.

“I hates to see this history stuff go to the wayside,” Mott said. “I’m here to talk for the bridge, because it can’t talk for itself.”

The two Barstow residents showed up at Monday’s City Council meeting to speak in support of not tearing down the old bridge during the public comment period. They were reacting to the city staff report and update presented by Andrew Sanford from Kleinfelder, Inc. during the April 6 City Council meeting. The company has worked on past maintenance projects for the bridge and the project to replace the bridge. Sanford gave a detailed report on the replacement of the First Avenue Bridge and reasons for the old bridge to be removed.

Gwin wants that the city to conduct studies exploring the feasibility of alternate routes over the railroad yard and the Mojave River and alternate use of the old bridge. He reminded the City Council members he sent a letter to them and he was waiting for a response.

“The board of directors of the Mojave River Valley Museum and the Democratic club both asked me to represent them at this meeting by asking for these two studies to be done before further work proceeds on this bridge,” Guinn said. “There was not one public meeting, not one public group from the city to give its input from either museums from anyone else directly involved in the establishment of that bridge. The city did none of that. Never asked for our advice, never asked for any assistance or thoughts. You are going ahead on this extremely important project with no input from the community. I think it’s wrong. I think it’s disgraceful.”

Barstow Consulting City Manager Brad Merrell said during his street report the city has completed studies on the project gong back to 1995. He also announced that a town hall meeting on the project has been scheduled for 5 p.m. on May 27 inside the City Council chambers. He said the project and studies will be presented and the public can ask questions and get answers.

Later in the meeting, Councilman Richard Harpole responded to Gwin admonishment of the city staff and City Council. Harpole referred to a photo of the bridge that was placed on one side of the City Council chambers.

“Mr. Guinn, I did get your letter. All of us did. And I read your letter not once, but four or five times,” he said. “The photograph you see on the easel over there is my photograph. I took it four or five years ago. It hangs in my house. And after reading your letter, I looked at the photo. I thought about it and kicked it around and I kept looking at the picture, and I said, ‘man it would be kind of cool if it had park benches on it and we converted that old bridge into a city park as a vista for the Harvey House and the train station.”

Harpole admitted he was sold on tearing down the old bridge during the April meeting. But he said he now has second thoughts and would like to hold a study session to discuss the possibility of converting the old bridge into a vista park.

“We can even have that as a venue for community events. I know that there is an issue we need to look at,” he said. “If that bridge came down on railroad property that would be a big problem for us.”
Mayor Hackbarth-McIntyre agreed.

“I’m not so convinced its so much a safety issue and I want to see the studies and the amount of money it would take to convert it into a park or keep it maintained and where that would lie within in our budget moving forward in the next couple years.”