Efforts to save Swinging Bridge continues

Brumley Swinging Bridges, what's new in fundraising efforts

Vicki Wood
Special to the Lake Sun, USA TODAY NETWORK

Efforts continue to save a historic bridge that has long been one of the favorite local landmarks in Miller County.

The group leading the Brumley Swinging Bridge restoration effort is working with the Miller County Commission and an engineering firm to move the project forward. Those efforts carry a price tag of $650,000.

Mike Dusenberg, of Bartlett & West, visited with The Save the Brumley Historical Swinging Bridge Group after an inspection to give concerned citizens and volunteers a final estimate for bridge repairs.

Dusenberg reports that to bring the bridge back to a condition that can support vehicular traffic, a total estimate of repair costs is $548,000. The price to initially open the bridge would be $150,000, with the remainder of the restoration done in phases, and ending with a $40,000 observation fee.

Miller County has already paid the price of the engineering firm's inspections and estimates that totaled $40,000. Miller County Presiding Commissioner Tom Wright said the county would cover the total engineering fee of $40,000 so that the Save the Historic Brumley Swinging Bridges group could focus on fundraising the repair money.

Dusenberg was questioned by the group if doing all five phases would bring the weight limit back up to five tons or more. He said it all depends on the inspection so he could not give a definite answer, but indicated if repairs are done properly, the new weight load could be considerably greater than five tons.

Another factor to take into account is that bridge repairs made now must follow the National Historical Register guidelines, due to the Grand Auglaize Swinging Bridge’s designation.

Board Members for 2021 were also recognized: President Mark Beabout, Vice President Brian Duncan and Secretary Joyce Beabout. Contributing members are Commissioner Wright, Kelly Warman-Stallings with the historic register, media consultant Vicki Wood, grant writer Linda Connor, Facebook administrators Randy Russell and Victoria Beabout, and Rocky Miller and State Rep. Lisa Thomas.

Commemorative T-shirts or sweatshirts are being sold to raise funds for the bridge restoration. The shirts are printed locally in Brumley and all proceeds go to the fundraising goal of $650,000.

Another fundraising drive is in the works, with commemorative bricks with the donors inscription of choice to be available for order, as well as a GoFundMe campaign has started under the guidance of website administrator Jim Bubash. Bubash, a retired engineer, has been traveling from St. Louis to assist and advise the group. He’s been meeting with legislators, writing pleas for funds to organizations, and submitting historical articles to various publications.

In 2020, the  Brumley Swinging Bridge was officially listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The registration has been filed with Miller County Commissioner’s office and gives the bridge opportunity for grants to maintain the bridge, and repair aging components.

The 500-foot bridge was built in 1931 by Joseph A. Dice, only planning for the bridge to last for 60 years at the most. It is now 89 years old, according to Miller County Museum archives,and still swaying gently.

Dice, of Warsaw, built as many as 40 bridges in Missouri in his career, seven of them alone built between 1905 and 1930 in Miller County. All of his bridges were 14 feet wide and did a lot of his planning work by “feel” with a ball and twine for measuring. When the highway department required Dice to begin submitting blueprints for his bridges, he retired. Dice only had a 4th grade education, apprenticed his knowledge in Benton County, and sourced his materials for each bridge with local supplies, only ordering the wire as necessary from outside the area.

It is one of six remaining wire suspension bridges in Miller County. The historic register designation effectively “saved” the bridge, which was in danger of closing due to lack of funding to maintain its cables and structure, which had been rated in “poor” condition by engineering companies in 2018.