BY KAREN GERHARDINGER | MIRROR REPORTER — Pointing to a large photo of the Roche de Boeuf Interurban Bridge when it was under construction in 1908, Waterville Mayor Tim Pedro smiled.
In a conversation with U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-Toledo) recently, she asked Pedro and Vice Mayor John Rozic to have the city consider some sort of involvement one last time before the bridge comes down, he said during the February 13 Waterville City Council meeting.
“There might be options. We do have time. The state is not ready to move in and remove it,” Rozic said.
According to Ohio De-partment of Transportation public information officer Kelsie Hoagland, the current project schedule depicts a Fall 2024 bid sale, with deconstruction likely in summer 2025.
The city is in communications with ODOT about options for saving the bridge, which belongs to the state, Pedro reported.
In November 2019, ODOT made it clear that if the bridge – deemed a hazard because it is crumbling – were to be saved, someone would have to come up with $15.5 million to renovate it or devise an approved plan and assume liability.
In August 2020, it looked as if someone would buy it. After an auction, the winning bidder bowed out, so the next-highest bidders – two brothers who offered $6,000 – agreed to purchase it. However, the two missed a deadline to come up with a feasible plan to renovate it and insure it. Since then, demolition, estimated at $2.2 million in 2020, has seemed imminent.
Soon after the failed sale of the bridge, Kaptur proposed that the state, along with Lucas and Wood counties and their park systems, fund the cost to restore it. U.S. Rep. Bob Latta (R-Bowling Green), during a December 2021 visit to Waterville, also expressed an interest in saving the bridge, Pedro said.
Kaptur serves on high-ranking committees and has spoken with stakeholders in the region, Pedro added.
“This was a very informal conversation, but it’s safe to say she’s interested in at least having more discussions about what we can do,” Pedro said.
The bridge, listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 1972, was built in 1908 as a trolley line that was abandoned in 1937. It was briefly used as an automobile crossing during World War II when the Mechanic Street bridge collapsed, but it has sat unused since 1946. In 1974, the Roche de Boeuf Bridge Historical Society was formed to raise $300,000 to save it. When those efforts failed, the group dissolved.
“I don’t think anyone in Waterville or the surrounding areas wants to see the bridge demolished,” Rozic said. He urged the community to share any suggestions or recommendations on the crusade to save the bridge.
During the meeting, council also:
• Approved a zoning change request for Taco Bell to operate at 6521 Hutchinson Dr. – near the corner of Dutch and the Anthony Wayne Trail, across from McDonald’s. Council app-roved the change with conditions, including the addition of 75 feet of left-turn lane and a stone monument as well as limited hours between 6:00 a.m. and 11:00 p.m.
• Listened to Colleen Harrell voice disappointment that council and the mayor do not follow up on questions regarding the amphitheater and a complaint from a resident about music being heard from Buffalo Rock Brewery in the evenings.
• Heard Wendy Gray say that a Christmas committee is seeking additional funds for lights and decorations in downtown Waterville for a Saturday, December 2 event. The committee is also planning to decorate the downtown area for St. Patrick’s Day, Memorial Day weekend, Independence Day and Labor Day. Council agreed to add $12,000 to the budget to pay for decorations for Christmas.
• Heard that the city has received grants for upcoming projects, including the resurfacing of SR 64 from Pray Boulevard to Waterville-Monclova Road in 2024. The $186,000 project will receive a $148,800 grant. Another project involves widening to three lanes the section of Waterville-Monclova Road between 280 feet north of SR 64 and 300 feet north of Pray Boulevard, with curbs, gutters and a 10-foot-wide shared-use path. A $1.2 million grant will offset 80 percent of the $1.5 million project cost on the 2025 project.
• Learned that 2,650 feet of the Canal Road waterline, which dates back to 1925 in sections, will be replaced with 8-inch PVC pipe and nine new fire hydrants starting in June.
• Heard council member Mary Duncan say that she visited Overlook Drive several times in the evening but couldn’t hear music from Buffalo Rock Brewery. She recommended revisiting the concerns about sound in the summer when the doors are open.
• Thanked treasurer Steve Schult for his involvement in Honor Flight.
• Appointed five members to the Charter Review Committee, which will meet in the next four to six months to review every line of the 1972 charter and make recommendations for placement on the November ballot. The members include Scott Jans, Yvonne Johnson, Jennifer Scroggs, Dave Roman and Steven Pedro, the mayor’s son.
• Agreed to remove an objection to a liquor permit which had once been in place for the Sunoco station. With new ownership, Aksoy LLC, council agreed to recommend to the Division of Liquor Control to allow a permit.
• Heard that Pedro and staff are meeting with the Lucas County Board of Commissioners and area fire chiefs and leaders about possible changes to the Advanced Life Support system.
• Learned that Farnsworth Cocktail Bar will open to the public on Tuesday, February 28.
• Approved the five-year capital planning program with an additional $27,000 for a police vehicle that needs to be replaced, funds for downtown decorations and the Parker Square/ Memorial Park project.
• Approved the 2023 annual appropriations based on a 1-percent income tax increase, or $3.4 million. With $14 million in revenue and $12 million in expenses, the city is anticipated to end the year with a balance of $10 million.