Dear Fellow Little Falls Swimming Club Members:

There has been a lot of concern about the repairs taking place to the bridge over Little Falls Creek, and I wanted to update the members as to how the Board has decided to proceed on these repairs. As has been communicated before, we had originally contracted with L. H. Musser and Sons to make limited repairs to the bridge that were indicated by an engineering study that had been conducted last year. Musser and Sons was selected as the lowest bidder among three qualified contractors after Craig Piercy conducted a thorough search. Given the specialized nature of the repairs, the number of firms willing to bid for this project was extremely limited.  Dave Almy, who has many years of experience with Montgomery County pools, and is providing us with consulting services regarding planning for the pool’s physical facilities, highly recommended Musser and Sons.   The contract with Musser and Sons was therefore signed with a cost of just under $20,000.

Once Musser and Sons began removing the bridge’s decking, it became apparent that the condition of the underlying support beams was significantly worse than anticipated. There was no way to detect that amount of deterioration until after some of the decking had been removed. Musser and Sons provided us with an estimate that replacing all of the wood on the bridge, including the support beams, would be an additional amount of approximately $60,000 for materials and labor. At that point, the Board had Musser and Sons cease work on the project while we considered what to do next.  Once we were aware of the extent of the damage, we also had to take into account any potential liability if we did not repair the bridge and it somehow failed.  So we couldn’t go back and it was going to be very expensive to go forward.

We did consider several other options, such as constructing a steel bridge or a pre-stressed concrete bridge. We were informed that there were likely to be substantial permitting problems, environmental considerations, design costs, and construction costs. Nobody was able to give us a firm estimate of these costs, but the general consensus was that they would be a multiple of the cost to repair the wooden bridge, and any bridge would almost certainly not be ready in time for the 2012 swimming season. As a result of this information, we determined that the only way to proceed was to repair the current wooden bridge with all new, pressure-treated wood for the support beams and for any of the corroded decking beams.

The Board did not feel that obtaining bids from the original two contractors who had not been selected would be worthwhile.  In addition, we had a “sunk cost” with Musser and Sons of $20,000, representing the original contract, of which it was unclear whether we would be able to recover any of that amount, let alone a significant portion, if we canceled our contract with them.  Another consideration was that there was time pressure to either continue with the expanded scope of work or cancel the contract. We did receive an additional bid for the expanded scope of work that was lower than the Musser and Sons amount.  However, given the amount we had spent with Musser and Sons, as well as the strong recommendation regarding their expertise, concerns about the low bidder’s expertise and a longer construction period, and support for this decision from our consulting engineers, we decided to continue the process with Musser and Sons.

While we did not want to spend anywhere near a total of $80,000 to repair the bridge, it became apparent that it was a necessary expenditure in order to be able to continue pool operations. The end result will be a bridge that is stronger and safer, and that is estimated to last at least an additional 20 years, and likely much longer. It will have safer railings and the bridge will have a higher load capacity which will allow small emergency vehicles to use the bridge in an emergency.  Plus it is estimated to be completed in four weeks, which will return tennis operations to normal much sooner than otherwise would be possible and will be ready well before the swimming season begins.  At this point, the bridge was already been deconstructed, the materials should be arriving at the end of next week, and completion should be shortly thereafter.

Several of the Board members, especially Craig Piercy and John Crupi, have dedicated a significant amount of time to resolving this problem, and we all appreciate their efforts. We also appreciate the concerns the membership has had. If you have any questions about the Board’s decision process, or if we can provide you with additional information, please feel free to contact me.

Andy Gefen