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Local News

Kendall County officials question quick demolition of historic Millbrook Bridge

'Things changed quickly' at work site, contractor tells forest preserve commissioners

YORKVILLE – Engineering and construction officials provided a field report in an effort to shed more light on why the historic Millbrook Bridge at the Shuh Shuh Gah Canoe Launch near Millbrook was demolished faster than expected during a Tuesday, Sept. 1 Kendall County Forest Preserve District commission meeting.

Forest Preserve Commission President Judy Gilmour said commissioners were not notified by project engineers or construction workers about the bridge beginning to collapse. She said they first found out about the demolition once someone looked at their phone after an Aug. 25 meeting and saw a photo of the bridge torn down.

"We were really taken by surprise," Gilmour said.

When asked why commissioners or forest preserve officials were not directly notified by project officials about the accelerated teardown, Andrew Moore, project manager for D Construction, said he couldn't answer that question. He said this wasn't what he wanted to have happen, especially regarding the lack of communication, but he was told crew members felt it was safer for workers and the public for the bridge to come down on their terms, as opposed to waiting for the bridge to collapse to continue the demolition as planned.

"Things changed quickly and, in fact, I only got a phone conversation as the second span was down," Moore said.

The accepted bid for the project was nearly half a million dollars and approved by the commission in February.

According to project documents, the demolition – which was supposed to take 25 days but ended up taking three days – originally was supposed to involve the use of barges, floating work platforms, temporary causeways and temporary sheet pile cofferdams. Instead, excavators ended up being driven into the river and were used to tear down the bridge after project workers noticed the bridge starting to move.

With the project not going as planned, Moore said, that meant some items within the unit-priced contract – also including pipe culverts that were supposed to be done for about $70,000 – would mean some cost savings for the forest preserve district.

"We're fully expecting some sort of credit here," Moore said.

Steven Megginson, vice president of engineering firm Hampton, Lenzini and Renwick, Inc., also confirmed the project engineer left the project site at about 2:30 p.m. Aug. 25 – just before workers started to notice the trusses started to shift. Megginson said he also was not directly notified of what had happened until the next day.

David Guritz, executive director for the Kendall County forest preserve district, said project officials don't know exactly how much material from the demolition may still be in the river. He said they wouldn't know until a survey has been completed.

The county forest preserve commission also voted, 6-3, to postpone the approval of an up to $8,900 underwater river inspection for possible remaining debris from the bridge teardown during the Tuesday meeting. Commissioners Scott Gryder, Audra Hendrix, Matt Prochaska, Robyn Vickers, Amy Cesich and Scott Gengler voted for the motion, while Matt Kellogg, Elizabeth Flowers and Gilmour voted against it. Commissioner Tony Giles was absent from the meeting.

A motion to approve a no more than $4,500 manual probe of the river was never seconded by commissioners – meaning the motion died and there was no vote taken on Tuesday.

Gryder, who is also the Kendall County Board chairman, said that seemed like a mass dereliction of duty for the engineer to not be on site for the biggest moment of the teardown after 95% of the deck boards had already been removed off of the bridge by Aug. 25.

"And the engineer's gone, and he doesn't even hear about it until the next day? And now you're asking me to pay $15,000 to view [the river] because we didn't have the engineer on site to talk through the guys that were doing the work? I'm just really struggling with that," Gryder said.

Lisa Wolancevich, chairwoman of the Yorkville Historical Preservation Society, said she wanted to see the commission bring another independent contractor to help with clean-up after what happened on current project officials' watch. She said she also would like to see an environmental study done with possible paint and rust in the river affecting wildlife and the water supply and no indication of how far those possible contaminants may have traveled after a week.

"I don't believe that this board was negligent – nothing I've heard made me think that you were negligent," Wolancevich said. "I feel that the company did not faithfully fulfill their contract."

Guritz said additional conversations with project engineers and construction workers to work out details of where payment for that type of survey will begin immediately. He said the primary concern of permitting agencies for the project are physical safety hazards to the public, including possible floating debris, since that is usually a popular stretch of the river for residents to patronize.

"So the sooner we get that cleared up, the better," Guritz said.

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