Spanning 79 feet across Sycamore Creek, Pickerington's iconic Zeller-Smith covered bridge has weathered its 110 years well with the exception of recent failures discovered during an inspection.

Spanning 79 feet across Sycamore Creek, Pickerington's iconic Zeller-Smith covered bridge has weathered its 110 years well with the exception of recent failures discovered during an inspection.

The bridge, located in Sycamore Creek Park, remains closed to pedestrian traffic.

The closure is problematic given the bridge's function as a walkway to Sycamore Creek Park Arboretum.

Pickerington city officials had to hold the city's 2016 Arbor Day festivities in another location and area residents have no viable means to enter the arboretum.

Options for the covered bridge's restoration have been discussed. They include installation of a small culvert, which City Engineer Scott Tourville said would most likely cost the same or possibly more than repairing the bridge itself and would not solve the problem of fixing the covered bridge.

Tourville advised City Council's Finance Committee last April there are three or four major structural issues with the bridge as well as several "smaller" minor structural issues that will also have to be addressed to keep the bridge open.

He said the price tag was $250,000 for a permanent fix and $45,000 for a temporary fix.

Pickerington City Council voted 5-1 May 3 to remove an ordinance which would have appropriated $45,000 for the temporary repairs.

"To date City Council has decided not to use city reserves to pay for temporarily (fixing) the bridge in 2016," said Bill Vance, Pickerington city manager.

He said he plans to initiate efforts to discuss the condition of the covered bridge, also known as the Sycamore Creek covered bridge, with the Pickerington-Violet Township Historical Society prior to the city's 2017 budget process.

"I do not know exactly when the covered bridge will be fixed but (I) will include $45,000 proposed for 2017 Sycamore Park bridge repairs in my next year's budget proposal for discussion purposes during the next budget process set to start in September," Vance said.

On Aug. 17, City Council's Finance Committee discussed the logistics of a proposed fundraising effort spearheaded by City Councilwoman Melissa Wilde, which would involve the sale of bricks to raise money to finance repairs.

Wilde said each brick with personal messages inscribed on them would sell for at least $100 each and the ultimate goal will be to raise the $250,000 to permanently fix the covered bridge.

"We would like to start the fundraiser now as opposed to waiting until January," Wilde said.

Some Finance Committee members expressed reticence about having the city appropriate $62,500 to cover the up-front costs of implementing a brick fundraising program.

"It's a worthy project, we all want the covered bridge to come back to life," said Jeff Fix, a Pickerington city councilman.

"But I'm not comfortable saying we should appropriate (money) tonight," Fix said.

City Finance Director Chris Schornack said the fundraising program would be conducted by an outside organization and the money derived from any fundraising effort would not "be running through the city's books."

Pickerington Mayor Lee Gray said the city would still be on the hook for labor and costs involved when installing the bricks.

"At some point in time we're going to have to lay the bricks," Gray said.

Wilde said having the fundraiser kick off as soon as possible would be the preferred route.

"Hopefully, we will be fixing the bridge in the spring if we have the money," Wilde said.

"If we don't have the money it delays fixing the bridge," she said.

City Councilman Brandon Ogden questioned whether enough bricks could be sold in such a short time.

"Where do we get the assumption we're going to be raising that amount of money?," Ogden asked. "That would be my concern."

While the $62,500 appropriation was removed from the Finance Committee's agenda by a 6-1 vote, the brick fundraising concept was referred back to the committee for further discussion next month.

Vance said what is without question is the importance of the Zeller-Smith covered bridge to the city, both as an enduring symbol of Pickerington's historical roots and as a functional part of the city's park system infrastructure.

"I believe it is important to continue to actively investigate ways to at least temporarily repair the covered bridge due to its historic value to the city and for accommodating public access to Pickerington's arboretum, which is now not possible," Vance said.

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