By MARK EVANS
STE. GENEVIEVE HERALD
Second District County Commissioner Randy Ruzicka had no trouble convincing his former fellow Ste. Genevieve aldermen that pursuing a no-match grant to replace the Fourth Street bridge would be a good idea.
The former Ward 4 aldermen addressed a special meeting of the board of aldermen Jan. 10 that lasted just 13 minutes.
In the end, the board voted unanimously to support the application the county is filing to pursue a Federal Land Access Program (FLAP) grant to replace the deteriorating bridge.
“What makes this really, really unique is, it’s a 100 percent grant,” Ruzicka told the aldermen, “which in the world of grants, that just doesn’t happen.”
Most grants require the applicant to cover between 25 and 50 percent of the amount.
As Ruzicka noted, the presence of the new Ste. Genevieve National Historical Park makes the connector Fourth Street eligible for a FLAP grant. He also explained why the county is taking the lead ion pursuing the grant.
“Even though that bridge is within the city limits, any fund that would come, would come through the county,” he said. “We’ve been trying to get something going on that for a long time, long before I was in.”
He noted that when he was an alderman, the city looked into addressing the structural condition of the bridge and the clumsily-added sidewalk that takes up a good portion of the roadway.
“We always talked about doing something, but the money was just never there,” he said.
And this will not be a cheap project. Estimates range from $500,000 to $750,000. With the FLAP grant, the entire cost would be covered – although the number of grants given out could possibly affect the maximum given out on an individual grant.
Ruzicka said that Michele Gatzemeyer, associate county clerk and secretary to the county commission, whom he called “an expert at grants,” has taken care of the paperwork.
“We’ve talked to MoDOT (the Missouri Department of Transportation); we’ve talked to Smith & Company Engineering about it,” Ruzicka said. “This fits the criteria Everybody we talked to said this, more or less, will fly.”
With Feb. 1 being the deadline for having everything filed, he noted that “Time is of the essence,” thus explaining the need for the special Monday night meeting.
The city just needed to agree to support the county’s application for the 100 percent grant.
“Basically, it’s handed to you on a silver platter,” Ruzicka said.
The county has tried in the past to seek grants to repair or replace the 1934 bridge. Until recent years, plenty of Off-system Bridge Replacement and Rehabilitation (BRO) grant money was available to counties to replace substandard bridges. Due to lessening funds and other changes, fewer and fewer bridges qualify. Currently, the only bridge in the county that would have qualified was the century-old Franklin Bridge on the outskirts of Sat. Mary. (It, however, has already been restored.)
“That bridge has been in bad shape for a long time and it’s getting worse,” Ruzicka said, noting that concrete is falling off and rebar is becoming visible in various spots on the aging bridge.