Hemet City Council has approved a $243,800 amended contract to engineer the replacement of the old Stetson Street and Cawston Avenue bridge near the airport that in need of serious repair. While the bridge is safe for most traffic, loads over 10,000 pounds are not recommended.
The city successfully applied for a Federal Highway Bridge Replacement program grant in 2012 that is administrated through Caltrans Local Assistance for $955,000 to replace the bridge. The grant funds were programmed for construction in 2018-19.
Michael Baker Corporation was awarded the amended contract that was increased by $45,000 bringing the total to $243,800.
Mayor Pro Tem Michael Percival urged the firm at the Feb. 14 meeting to make sure they finished the engineering portion as soon as possible and to start the construction phase by 2018 because the condition of the bridge shows loose wooden support columns and deteriorating cement walls. He said the bridge is heavily traveled by traffic to and from the Wal-Mart center on Sanderson Avenue along with heavy semitractor-trailers. He said that signs showing the 10,000-pound weight level should be placed in more visible locations before the bridge.
The city and county fire services stationed at the airport have some tanker trucks that weigh over that limit and need to be rerouted away from the bridge for safety. However, engineers are inspecting the bridge regularly and report it is safe for traffic under the weight limit.
In other business at the Feb. 14 meeting, the council heard recruiting updates from Police Chief Dave Brown and Fire Chief Scott Brown.
Scott Brown said since the city approved a $2.2 million advance against expected Measure U sales tax funds, his department has already hired nine new firefighters and paramedics but lost two to outside agencies and a battalion chief. They have promoted five of their firefighters and have had 12 applicants for the three open battalion chief positions. He said they were particularly pleased that Station No. 5 in east Hemet has been reopened and is fully staffed with a paramedic.
Dave Brown said his department has hired two trained police officers and four entry-level police officers. He said he hoped to have 10 more officers by the end of June 2018. He explained that hiring trained and experienced officers from other departments, known as hiring laterally, with the help of signing bonuses of $10,000 to $25,000 could save the city as much a $3 million in the long run.