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Narberth Affirms Bridge-Repair Plan, Introduces Budget

The 2013 ledger would keep the tax rate steady.

Narberth's Borough Council on Monday night elected to move forward with repairs to the Narberth Avenue bridge and proposed a tax-neutral 2013 budget.

Though the council already acted last month to authorize spending up to $300,000 to fix a bridge that failed a PennDOT inspection in August, Borough Manager Bill Martin suggested the council act separately Monday night to approve hiring contractor J.D. Eckman Inc. for the work.

Eckman quoted the borough about $211,000 for its share of the work, which would not include several components of the project that involve dealing with the difficulty of timing bridge repairs around the constant train traffic underneath.

Narberth has already committed several thousand dollars for engineering designs and projections, but council members could have deferred hiring a contractor and conceivably scrapped the repairs with little additional cost if that was the majority's will.

Councilwoman Heidi Boise, one of two council members to vote against the repairs, reiterated her case Monday night that the money could be better spent some other way to help the downtown businesses. The bridge is set to be replaced in a 12-to-15-month construction period that could begin as soon as 2014.

Councilman Bob Weisbord, who had favored the repairs, expressed disappointment that no more creative and environmentally friendly solution had emerged. But Weisbord said he would reluctantly continue to endorse the project, given his confidence in Eckman (which repaired the bridge after a previous failed inspection) and the volume of apparent public support for the repairs. (Boise noted she had also received several letters asking the council to reconsider the repair project.)

The council voted 5-1 in favor of Eckman's participation, with Councilman Michael Alexander, another opponent of the repairs, absent.

"I can personally attest," said Council President Sam Quinn, "that everybody at this table has struggled with this decision."

The vote was unanimous to introduce the 2013 budget, which like the 2012 budget includes no tax increase. It accounts for a five-year payment plan for the $300,000 cost of repairing the Narberth Avenue bridge, Martin said. Expiring debt service for other projects and a diminished police payroll offset the bridge's impact for 2013.

Also Monday night, Martin told the council that government approvals are almost all in place to proceed with the demolition of the Rockland Avenue Bridge, most likely in March.

Do you agree with the Borough Council bridge-repair plan? Tell us in the comments section below.

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