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WORKERS QUICKLY INSTALL PREFABRICATED BRIDGE

It took a dozen county employees just three hours Wednesday to place a 100-foot prefabricated bridge across Big Sister Creek at Bennett Beach in Evans.

The bridge, in 53- and 47-foot sections, arrived from Minnesota on two flatbed trucks. The span cost $27,000 unassembled and would have cost $54,000 if installed.

"We decided to install it in-house," Parks Commissioner James Jankowiak said. "Men from county parks put the foundation in. I rented a 90-ton crane. When I pay the bills, it will cost us about $34,000 so I save the county about $20,000, which I will use to buy parks equipment."

County workers poured the concrete foundations on either side of the crumbling remains of the original bridge that spanned the creek.

"It is 20 feet longer and 3 feet higher than the old bridge," Jankowiak said. "We needed to go higher because of winter ice. We had to take the old bridge down every winter."

The two bridge sections were lined up on a leveled-off stretch of Bennett Beach Park and slid together by the crane operator. Then the parks workers fastened it with 1.25-inch-thick bolts.

"The crane lifted 100-foot section," Jankowiak said. "It fit perfectly. We were right on the money with concrete head wall and concrete abutment."

The Parks Department workers tightened up connections.

"We made it a little bigger and better," Jankowiak said. "We used 30 yards of concrete. It called for 25. It will be there probably as long as the pyramids are standing."

With their work done before noon, the crew took apart the temporary floating bridge that allowed parks users to reach Bennett Beach during its first year under actual county ownership.

"We removed and cleaned up the 55-gallon drums," Jankowiak said. "We will now cut the lids off and use them as garbage cans."

The parks workers on the bridge crew have welding, metal burning ar tool-handling skills. The Public Works Department helped out with an engineer, Joseph Monte, and the Environment and Planning Department secured the necessary federal permit.

To install a bridge over Big Sister Creek, which empties into Lake Erie, the county needed the consent of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Jankowiak said all-in-all the day that the county workers assembled the 20,000-pound bridge is a day to remember.

"I should go buy a lottery ticket," he said.

Bennett Beach is closed for the season, so the public will have to wait until next spring for a good look. Wendt Beach is still open, with its playing fields. Lifeguards, of course, are gone, and swimming forbidden.

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