LEARN MORE, HELP OUT
• Officials with the Comer Bridge Foundation, North Skunk River Greenbelt Association and HRI Bridge Co. will hold a public meeting at 10 a.m. CST Dec. 5 to discuss the vision for the bridge. The location, to be announced soon, will be determined based on anticipated attendance.
• To donate, go to http://comerbridge.org/donate-to-cbf.html or mail donations to CBF, P.O. Box 609, Scottsboro, AL 35768.
An agreement between a nonprofit group looking to save the B.B. Comer Bridge in Scottsboro, Ala., from the wrecking ball and the company contracted to demolish it could lead to the old steel span's preservation.
The agreement kicks fundraising efforts into high gear for the next step toward a strategy for turning the aging bridge over the Tennessee River into a pedestrian-friendly community asset. That's according to Julie Bowers, of the Grinnell, Iowa-based North Skunk River Greenbelt Association and "Workin' Bridges," the association's preservation arm.
Bowers said the next step is to raise $6,000 to bring in preservation experts Nels Raynor of Bach Steel and Jim Schiffer of The Schiffer Group to study refurbishing needs.
Ron Barger, area manager of demolition contractor HRI Bridge Co., said last week that foundation officials and Bowers are taking the appropriate initial steps but there's still a ways to go.
Barger said in an email that the company "has agreed to discuss and explore helping the community, through the Comer Bridge Foundation, to save the historic B.B. Comer Bridge."
The biggest roadblock is time.
"The efforts to change course and save the bridge at this point in the project will require extensive and timely collaboration across multiple agencies and stakeholders," he said.
"There has been a noticeable surge in momentum in recent weeks with the efforts of the Comer Bridge Foundation and their preservationists," he said. "At this point, time is an enemy, but we are willing to do our part to look for win-win scenarios for the stakeholders and to assist the community in reaching this goal."
Money appropriated for demolition instead could pay for repairs, painting and other work, as well as help pay for a crossing over the slough on the east side, Bowers said.
Efforts to save the 1930s-era steel truss bridge started gaining momentum after it was named to 2013's Top Rated Unique Savable Structures, or TRUSS, list, according to bridgehunter.com. The span over the Tennessee River is the last of 15 memorial bridges built by the Alabama State Bridge Corp. starting in 1927, said bridgehunter.com founder James Baughn.
Foundation officials are seeing tax-deductible contributions to help fund the Workin' Bridges study and site plan, foundation vice president Lallie Leighton said.
Leighton said she expects a boost from a listing on the nationwide website Chamber for Good, a network of chambers of commerce dedicated to helping local charities and causes through local chambers.
"That's another bona fide stamp of approval that lets people know that we're serious about preserving the bridge," she said.
Foundation treasurer Charles Holderfield said the effort needs community participation now.
"Be a real friend to the bridge and help us reach our goal," Holderfield said.
Contact staff writer Ben Benton at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6569.
Ben Benton is a news reporter at the Chattanooga Times Free Press. He covers Southeast Tennessee and previously covered North Georgia education. Ben has worked at the Times Free Press since November 2005, first covering Bledsoe and Sequatchie counties and later adding Marion, Grundy and other counties in the northern and western edges of the region to his coverage. He was born and raised in Cleveland, Tenn., a graduate of Bradley Central High School. Benton ...