Originally created 11/21/02

Family awaits bridge repair



SAVANNAH, Ga. - Stroll across the old logging bridge at the Hardin Canal on Wild Cat Dam Road, and you'll find Anthony Young's house - about a 10-minute walk on the far side of the bridge that state officials shut down in September, saying it was unsafe.

Mr. Young and his wife are the sole residents on that side of the bridge, stuck without a good way to reach the rest of the world.

They're also stuck in a political tangle: The bridge is on a Bloomingdale road, but the Youngs live inside the Pooler city limits.

And until early last year, the road itself - including the bridge - was part of unincorporated Chatham County.

City and county governments are haggling over who will cough up the estimated $25,000 to $30,000 it will take to replace five rotten pilings.

"They're talking about fixing it, but I don't see them making any effort yet," said Mr. Young, who lives with his wife on 20 acres, his grandmother's old homeplace.

On Sept. 25, the Wild Cat Dam Road bridge was one of four Chatham County bridges that the state Department of Transportation ordered closed. The other three, all on Old Highway 204, were repaired by the county and have reopened.

Bloomingdale responded to the order to close the Wild Cat Dam Road bridge by putting a locked gate across the thoroughfare.

The city gave Mr. Young a key so he can use the bridge at his own risk, and he says he doesn't worry that the bridge might not support his pickup.

But he does worry about what might happen if paramedics or firefighters had to get to his house quickly.

"Even if I was here, if we had a fire or something and the gate was locked, I'd just be out of luck," he said.

Officials took the first step toward resolving the situation earlier this month, when the Chatham County Commission agreed to chip in as much as $10,000 for repairs.

That leaves Bloomingdale to cover the remainder, but right now the city will have a hard time finding the money, Bloomingdale Mayor Ben Rozier said. The city is getting bids from engineering companies. Pooler officials haven't committed any funds, but Mayor Buddy Carter says he wishes he'd known the county commission was taking up the issue.

"We would have been there, and we would have participated," Mr. Carter said.

"Certainly, it's ludicrous to think that we're not responsible people, and we are. We'll do whatever we need to do."

Wild Cat Dam Road stretches through to Pine Barren Road, but officials say it's become impassable, leaving only the bridge for coming and going.

A tangled political history lies behind the question of who is responsible for the bridge.

Bloomingdale residents voted in July 1998 to annex more than 1,000 acres on the north side of U.S. Highway 80, leaving Wild Cat Dam Road forming much of Bloomingdale's new western boundary.

The road already defined part of the city limits for Pooler, Bloomingdale's neighbor to the east.

But neither city limits included the road itself, which remained a part of unincorporated Chatham County until January 2001, when the Bloomingdale Council agreed to annex the road, too.

Mr. Carter said he is willing to sit down and discuss the matter with Bloomingdale and county officials.

Commissioner Dean Kicklighter suggested that neither city nor county officials are at fault.

"Or perhaps we're jointly to blame. None of them actually got out there under that bridge and looked at it when the annexation happened," he said.