Ferrysburg residents to decide fate of longtime bridge

Smith's Bayou Bridge is in need of millions of dollars worth of repairs. (Nov. 3, 2017)


FERRYSBURG, Mich. (WOOD) — A Ferrysburg bridge built in 1972 is falling apart and people living in the area will make a crucial vote Tuesday affecting steps to fix it.

Right now, Ferrysburg’s city council holds the power to sell a local nature preserve to make repairs along Smith’s Bridge, but that could all change.

“We don’t know exactly how long we can get away with doing nothing [on the bridge],” Mayor Dan Ruiter said.

Ruiter explained that the most recent annual inspection found major concerns below the bridge, mostly with the beams that support it.

“We may have to make it a one-way bridge. We may have to reduce the speed limit. We may have to close (it). We don’t know,” said the mayor.

As they consider temporary fixes, they have already reduced the weight limit.

Now, the city must decide how they will pay to replace Smith’s bridge, which will cost about $11.5 million.

ON THE BALLOT

People who live in Ferrysburg will notice a bridge-related millage on Tuesday’s ballot. It would pay for 3 mills over the next 10 years.

The cost for an owner of a $150,000 home would be about $300 more in property taxes. That could be less if the city council votes to sell nature preserve in town.

“It’s kind of controversial thing right now,” the mayor said.

As policy stands now, city leaders can decide to sell the preserve without public approval. Tuesday’s election could put that decision in the public’s hands. A second ballot measure would make selling parks a matter for residents to vote on rather than the council. If that passes, there would have to be a 60 percent majority to sell the wooded perserve.

Ruiter said that developers are already hungry for the land. While he said he would like to keep it, his main focus is the integrity of Smith’s Bridge.

“The thing I worry about the most is emergency services,” he said. “Spring Lake Township has people they service out past the bridge. Well, if they couldn’t go over this bridge, they’d have to go out to the highway and then come around and go back.”

The city has also applied for several federal grants.

Some of those grant applications were already denied and the mayor said they would still need to pay for millions of dollars in costs the grants do not cover.