(DUDLEYTOWN) - Someone looking to make some money by stealing metal from a 100-year-old bridge southeast of this small community overnight Friday may have cost taxpayers a whole lot of money.
Aubrey Woods, of the Tribune, reports their efforts also produced a side effect that could have been dangerous, a county official said.
"It put an unsuspecting motorist at a horrible risk," county highway superintendent Warren Martin said of the incident involving Bridge 154.
That incident, reported at 8:18 a.m. Saturday, involved the theft of guardrails as well as other metal supports from the bridge. The thieves stopped when they cut a main support that caused the bridge to drop about 12 inches.
"I think that shook them up," county Commissioner Jerry Hounshel said.
Jackson County Sheriff's Department Detective Bob Lucas is investigating the incident, reported by a person who lives in the area.
Lucas said his investigation will start with visits to local scrap metal buyers to see if anyone has tried to sell metal from the bridge.
Martin said highway crews were in the area earlier in the week and there was no damage then.
"It happened Friday night," Martin said.
County highway workers closed the bridge temporarily on Saturday and then started checking other iron bridges that are open in the county, Martin said.
"We'll check the ones that are closed today," he added.
On Monday, members of the highway department's bridge crew, including foreman Gary Jackson, spent the morning erecting signs closing Bridge 154.
Jackson said an engineer would inspect the bridge Monday afternoon to see if it can be repaired.
Martin said the bridge is on a "hit list" of bridges scheduled to be replaced because of its age and 5-ton weight restriction.
That means heavy farm equipment could not be driven across the bridge, but Martin said County Road 300 South also is used by local motorists, although no one lives in the immediate area.
The bridge was built in 1910 and carries County Road 300 South over Rider Ditch.
Martin said replacing the bridge could cost between $200,000 and $300,000, and this is a time when bridge money is tight because of other major bridge replacement projects. Those include replacement of Cavanaugh Bridge over Muscatatuck River in Driftwood Township, replacement of Bridge 228 at Rockford and rehabilitation of Shieldstown Covered Bridge over East Fork White River north of U.S. 50.
"We'll just have to sit down and talk about it," Martin said of any decision commissioners might make about Bridge 154.
Martin said it's possible the county bridge crew could do the work, but that depends upon the cost of the project.
"It's about 100 feet long," Martin said.
Anyone with information about the incident may call Jackson County Sheriff's Department at 358-2141.
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