"Historic" Dry Brook bridge question keeps family without access to home

By Julia Green
Historic or not historic – that’s the question blocking reconstruction of a bridge that spans the Dry Brook stream on George Road near Arkville.
The bridge, which provides access to a residence owned by Joe and Cathy Milnikiewicz, has been deemed an unsafe structure and as such has been closed for the past three years.
Until the mid-1960s, the bridge at the current location was a covered bridge. In 1964 or 1965, the covered bridge was removed and the current bridge was put in its place. The current bridge was relocated from another site, having been constructed in 1907.
Three years ago, in July of 2005, the bridge was closed. This past September, concrete barricades were put in place after the state DOT determined in its annual inspection that the bridge had gotten worse.
Given that the bridge in question is a county bridge, and as such falls under the jurisdiction of Delaware County, the county was eligible to receive funds from the Federal Emergency Manage-ment Agency (FEMA) to help pay for the reconstruction; however, due to the bridge’s potential designation as an historic structure, the county has hit its own road block.
Meanwhile, the Milni-kiewiczes have had no vehicular access to their property since the closing of the bridge in 2005. As second homeowners, they have plans to retire to the Catskills; however, the current dilemma has led to their closing the house for the winter.
“I think they’ve been immensely patient,” said the Milnikiewiczes’ attorney Gary A. Rosa. “They have not had vehicular access, including fuel trucks, for three years.”
Rosa added that there is no dispute among the parties involved, all of whom agree that the best course of action would be to simply build a new bridge with new abutments.
Also involved in the discussion is Arkville resident Kingdon Gould Jr. Gould, who owns the land over which the bridge passes, was asked to sign an easement which would enable the county to build new abutments and move the current bridge upstream. His desire not to sign the easement resulted in the county’s moving forward with eminent domain proceedings.
Gould shares the opinion that building an entirely new bridge would be the most beneficial course of action, citing the current bridge’s preclusion of fire and fuel services to the residence as well as the fact that the Milnikiewiczes have no other access to a public road.
“It’s a shame that somebody’s health and safety of property and life and limb are endangered to protect this old bridge,” Rosa said.
The eminent domain process would have to be completed before next spring, as DEC regulations specify that in regard to protected trout streams, one of which passes under the bridge in question, the stream may only be accessed between June 15 and Sept. 30.
Following a public hearing held on Oct. 15, the eminent domain proceedings commenced and are expected to be completed in the next few months.