(La Porte County, IN) - More repairs are slated for the Franklin Street drawbridge in Michigan City.
This time, unanimous support was given by the La Porte County Commissioners to enter into a no-bid contract with the longtime caretakers of the bridge to do the work as quickly as possible.
According to county officials, new parts will again have to be made to replace old ones worn out since already-made parts do not exist for the bridge since it's nearly a century old. The work has to be done during the winter for the drawbridge to function during the spring and summer.
The bridge working properly is critical during the warm weather to allow sailboats returning from Lake Michigan to pass underneath and for motorists to reach the lakefront.
Commissioner Joe Haney, who steadfastly questioned the legality and integrity of the no-bid contract awarded to the longtime caretakers of the bridge for similar work last year, had a change of opinion this year.
Haney said he was influenced by further research of the law and the short window to award a contract for the work to have the bridge repaired before spring. He said it would take two years to repair the bridge if competitive bids were sought.
"We are up against the wall," Haney said.
La Porte County Commission President Sheila Matias said having the bridge working properly is a public safety issue. She said the drawbridge is the primary access to the beach, and if it's stuck open, paramedics could be delayed in responding to a medical emergency at the lakefront.
La Porte County Attorney Shaw Friedman had a mixed reaction to Haney's change of position, considering how they previously clashed over the interpretation of the law.
"While I'm heartened that Mr. Haney has all of a sudden done a 180 and now thinks the special purchase right is the way to go if he had listened to us a year ago rather than lodging claims that it was wrong and unethical for my office to propose that and even going around me to the State Board of Accounts and then calling county government a vat of filth and wanting me fired over this I might be sympathetic to his change of heart," Friedman said.
There was no change in opinion from La Porte County Auditor Tim Stabosz, who believes the project cost is above what's allowed for a no-bid contract under state law. Stabosz vowed not to pay the bill unless he was given legal protection should the state find him in violation for making the payment.
The commissioners unanimously approved his request not to be held legally responsible should the no-bid contract be ruled a violation.