We have to keep asking questions about hazardous bridge

| 02 Aug 2021 | 12:39

To the Editor:

We are now in August 2021, and providing updates to the situation with the bridge over Sawkill Creek on Sawkill Avenue in Dingman Township, adjacent to Milford Borough. The bridge leads to my home and four other homes. My home is on the market again with a $25,000 credit for a buyer to help with the bridge, but no one is interested because of the damaged dangerous bridge.

It’s a catch 22. My property passed a full inspection last fall. The bridge condition is preventing the sale of my property, and realtors have heard that countless times. The problem is the generous buyer’s credit I’m willing to give to any buyer, makes selling impossible given the condition of the bridge.

As I have no ownership of the bridge, I have no idea what is wrong with it. How much will repairs cost? Can it be repaired? Is it even insured now like it used to be by the owner’s family? I also can’t force any buyer to use the money I’d give back at closing to be used for something I don’t own. The other residents and I across the bridge have had no communication from the bridge’s owner, Babette Smith, or anyone as to what will be done, could be done or any cost estimates from contractors, which would have to be in detail and in writing for anyone who may consider purchasing my house, as their lender would want to know the details, as well as their insurance company.

One resident here already has lost her homeowners insurance because of the bridge. What we do know is there are big signs at the bridge that it is damaged and marked dangerous, and that trucks can’t cross. The four ton limit sign the owner posted changed from the ten ton to four tons. Now the sign is gone which gives an idea of what the safe weight limit was. It was originally ten tons when we bought our homes. Four years ago, when the Milford water company first made the bridge owner aware there was a problem, it went to four tons.

Today we don’t know what is a safe limit and what is not. Over the last few months, many state and local officials have been contacted by the residents seeking help to solve this dangerous situation. PA State Representative Mike Peifer did state in an interview that he, along with the Pike County Commissioners and Senator Lisa Baker, would look into the situation to see if any creative funding may be found to help. We have heard nothing since. We are at a disadvantage for communication because we do not own the bridge, so the residents here would not hear directly from any official trying to help.

I spoke with county commissioner Matt Osterberg three weeks ago who said he would get back to me after he spoke to Rep. Mike Peifer. To date, we have heard nothing. Perhaps they are still trying to come up with a solution, but we just don’t know. We have no choice but to continue to ask questions and to reach out to state and local officials publicly to help us out of a dangerous living situation we face every single day.

Recently I had a flood caused by a broken ice maker line. I called several local companies who deal with that situation only to be told, “Sorry, we can’t cross that bridge with our trucks.” Thankfully I was able to get a contractor from New Jersey who had a van who did what had to be done over a few weeks’ period. Everyone on this side of the bridge needs some type of services from septic maintenance to tree removal to just basic deliveries and garbage service like every other pike county resident. We have all heard, “Sorry, can’t cross that bridge” many times.

Our concerns remain emergency services and the safety of the home owners who cross the bridge everyday. Our efforts to seek help are for all property owners, including the bridge owner. We are all struggling to survive in an increasingly dangerous situation that traps us in, as none of us has the funds to get out to live somewhere else. Winter is coming soon again, and without plows crossing the bridge to open the road, we can’t get emergency services in at all.

We will continue to raise awareness of our plight, seeking a solution to this dangerous situation for five pike county households. Are there sources we don’t know about on state or federal levels? Are there state or federal programs to provide grants, loans or bonds to the bridge owner for this situation? That bridge has been used to fight national park service fires and search and rescue to this section of the park that borders Milford Borough. Can the National Park Service help or possibly know of a solution? We have to continue asking questions of the public to seek help as someone who reads this may have a source we do not know about. We are trying to prevent injury or death from occurring as a direct result of this damaged bridge.

Suzanne Geissler

Dingman Township