YORKVILLE – A historic Kendall County bridge will come falling down this summer for nearly half a million dollars following a vote from the county's forest preserve commission this week.
The Kendall County Forest Preserve Commission voted, 8-1, to approve a $476,784.03 contract with D Construction out of Coal City to demolish the historic Millbrook Bridge during their meeting Tuesday, Feb. 18 at the county office building. Commissioner Matt Kellogg voted against the measure and commissioner Tony Giles left the meeting before the vote.
Judy Gilmour, forest preserve commission president, said the commission was told in 2015 the pier of the bridge had about five years of service life remaining due to rapid deterioration. She said the district considered several options to save the bridge, including complete restoration and repair, complete replacement, partial removal and repair of the west pier and two east trusses, and complete truss superstructure removal.
Gilmour said there has been no support from local governments, including the Village of Millbrook, for the bridge. She said the forest preserve district also tried to secure any funding they could to finance bridge repairs to help save the structure.
"But unfortunately, efforts to secure any federal or state grant funding have been unsuccessful," Gilmour said.
Gilmour said some members of the public have urged commissioners to just leave the bridge alone, but the bridge would just continue to deteriorate and that deterioration could lead to the bridge collapsing. She said it would pose an unacceptable risk for public safety and the funds are just not there to help save it.
"None of us want to see the bridge come down, but the bridge is our responsibility," Gilmour said.
The vote comes after commissioners tabled further discussions and a vote on a contract for the demolition of the historic bridge during their Feb. 4 meeting, pending legal review.
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.
Forest preserve officials had said it was a cost issue for the commission to try to reconstruct or restore the bridge, with either option costing the forest preserve district at least $1 million.
Kellogg said after the Tuesday, Feb. 18 meeting that he hasn't been in favor of the demolition of the bridge since the first vote in 2018 and the amount of money that already has gone to the bridge. He said he is not thrilled about the funding source of the proposed contract to demolish the bridge.
Kellogg said he doesn't think tearing down the bridge was the intent of the bond that was passed in 2007, which says the Kendall County forest preserve district may borrow money and issue general obligation bonds for no more than $45 million to acquire lands and improve land along the district and Fox River. He said he also believes there have been political changes in the Village of Millbrook since the county acquired the bridge.
"I think we can take the deck off and do some things to alleviate the weight on those piers and do some things to give us more time and money may become available," Kellogg said.
Millbrook Village President Jackie Kowalski was present for the Kendall County Board meeting, which came before the forest preserve commission meeting, but left before the vote regarding the bridge demolition.
Kowalski did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Record Newspapers on Tuesday, Feb. 18.
The bridge has been closed to pedestrian traffic since 2015, and has been closed to vehicular traffic since the 1970s.
Commissioner Audra Hendrix said she hopes the public doesn't take the vote to mean that the commission considers it a win, since commissioners aren't happy about the decision of demolishing something with such historical significance to the county. However, she said, temporary repairs delay the full expense and the ongoing maintenance costs of the bridge that the county just doesn't have the money for.
"Outside of some serious crowd funding happening really, really, really fast, there's no way to save this bridge because of the monies involved," Hendrix said.
Forest preserve officials previously said during the Aug. 27, 2019 forest preserve commission meeting that the historic bridge that goes over the Fox River will most likely be demolished in July or August 2020.