A Millbrook Village Board member asked the Kendall County Board to help preserve the old Millbrook bridge over the Fox River.
The issue of preserving or demolishing the bridge, constructed in 1897, has been an ongoing discussion for years between the village of Millbrook and county officials. Fox Township turned the bridge over to the Kendall County Forest Preserve District in 2002, before the village was incorporated as a municipality.
The bridge has been closed to pedestrian traffic since 2015, and has been closed to vehicular traffic since the 1970s.
The Forest Preserve District has hired HLR Engineering of Springfield to go through the federal and state environmental permitting process necessary for the bridge’s restoration, but county officials have yet to decide whether the structure will be removed, replaced or some other alternative.
Budd Wormley of Millbrook spoke to the board on Tuesday, April 17, regarding the preservation of the bridge. He recalled the village adopting a comprehensive plan in 2009 that called for the preservation of certain structures.
Wormley said one of the “first two goals” listed in the plan is to “respect and maintain the unique feel and character that defines the village of Millbrook.”
“And if that bridge isn’t one of the defining issues of character, I don’t know what is,” he said.
The other goal is to “protect the scenic corridors leading into and throughout the village.”
Wormley said he did not blame the county for the bridge’s deterioration, which had been ongoing for decades.
“It’s something that’s not been addressed by previous administrations but the time is now and I think that bridge can be saved,” he said.
Wormley said that if the county demolished the bridge, officials were ignoring the village’s plan.
“These are all issues that we developed in this comprehensive plan that, by destruction of that bridge, essentially you’re ignoring the comprehensive plan for Millbrook and it deeply troubles me,” he said.
During a discussion on the issue, commission member John Purcell said he would approve of the village taking over the preservation of the bridge if it was to maintain it into perpetuity.
“If Millbrook wants to take possession of this bridge, I’d gladly offer that we contribute $400,000 that we’ve already budgeted if they want to take possession and just guarantee in our contribution that that bridge will be maintained in Millbrook forever,” Purcell said.
According to Forest Preserve Director Dave Guritz, the district has had $400,000 in funds budgeted for the Millbrook bridge project.
In related business, the Forest Preserve District Commission approved including the removal of the two center support piers within the construction plan for purposes of the permitting process.
The vote on that item was 7-2, with commission members Matt Kellogg and Bob “H.D.” Davidson voting against the measure. Commission President Judy Gilmour and members Purcell, Scott Gryder, Matthew Prochaska, Elizabeth Flowers, Audra Hendrix and Lynn Cullick voted in favor of it; Tony Giles was absent for the meeting.
Joe Frazee, project manager with the HLR firm, sent an email to Guritz stating that U.S. Army Corps of Engineers officials expressed concern that the existing piers could be a hazard to boats or canoes in the river if they remain there.
“As long as the piers remain in the river, the Forest Preserve is responsible for maintaining them and removing any material that falls into the river. That will be one condition of the Army Corps permit approval,” Frazee wrote. “If the piers collapse in the future, the Forest Preserve will have to go through the permitting process again with the Corps and IDNR to take equipment into the river to remove them. The stones and concrete caps are too large to be removed by hand.”
Guritz said after the meeting that the measure would ensure that the district will have the correct permitting whether or not they remove the piers during the process.
In an inspection report submitted in April of 2015, engineering firm HR Green estimated that complete removal and replacement of the bridge would cost $1.4 million while restoration and repair of the existing bridge would cost $1 million.
However the firm warned in its report that “the unique nature of this work makes it difficult to predict costs.”