Damaged bridge causes headache for council and cane farmers
FORGET the troubled waters, Whitsunday Regional Council is instead dealing with a troubled bridge.
In this week's ordinary council meeting, councillors discussed issues with Cantamessa Bridge near Hamilton Plains.
According to a council report, the bridge is several decades old and was closed by the council in 2017 after damage from Cyclone Debbie.
In August 2018, the Department of Transport and Main Roads carried out an inspection and classed the bridge as "very poor" and "dangerous" for use.
There was a recommendation before the council to remove the bridge and permanently close Cantamessa Rd.
However, the bridge is used by several cane farmers including Steven Cantamessa, who has high hopes the council will instead replace the bridge.
Mr Cantamessa said he used the bridge several times a day.
"About a fifth of our farm is on that side of the creek with irrigation pumps and stuff like that so I'm forever over there," he said.
"It's not just me, there's other cane growers that use it as a thoroughfare."
The council report suggested farmers could instead use Strathdickie Rd, which connects with the main road into Proserpine.
Mr Cantamessa was concerned this would increase the risk of crashes on the road as the cane machinery was wide and slow moving.
Mayor Andrew Willcox also said a diversion would not be the best option.
"What this does is it gets a lot of that slow, particularly wide traffic off our main road and off that other bridge," he said.
"This is every bit about safety for our residents and our community as it is about the farmers.
"I certainly wouldn't support removing it, however I would support tabling it and chasing some of that funding."
The bridge is not listed on the council register, which means they are not responsible for its upkeep.
Council's director of infrastructure services Matt Fanning said the question over whether the bridge was council owned property or not was "debatable".
"From a professional viewpoint, I'm not sure it would have been council's property because the way the structure has been built would not have been with the standards even back a long time ago," he said.
"I wouldn't take any of my property or persons over the structure at this point in time due to safety reasons.
The councillors were presented with three options, which were remove the bridge and permanently close the road, remove the bridge and build a new one or seek a financial contribution from the farmers using the bridge to help renew the structure.
Division 5 councillor Gary Simpson suggested applying for grants from other government bodies.
However, Mr Fanning said if the council committed to replacing the bridge, they would also have to commit to ensuring no one uses the bridge in the meantime.
"We do have (warning signs) there, however they keep being knocked over and put on the ground so we will continue to put them up," he said.
"There's a liability issue, that's where council has to be careful.
"(If) we're going to accept liability for this area and put a new bridge in, we need to ensure that no one is actually travelling over that bridge at this point in time."
Mr Fanning said he would explore temporary solutions that would allow the bridge to be used while the council chases grants to fix the structure.
The council resolved to table the issue so they could explore grant opportunities.
Cr Simpson also suggested the councillors visit the structure to get a better understanding of the issue.
Mr Cantamessa hoped there would be action on the bridge that would help cane farmers continue their work while keeping the community safe.
"We can't really afford to have it closed for another two or three years," he said.
"I just think the duty of care comes back on to the council."