Councillors debate bridge maintenance and load limits in Upper Lachlan Shire

The council has defended communication with transport operators and producers, saying it is waiting on a report which will provide alternatives to weakening transport links over Upper Lachlan Shire bridges.

During Thurday night's council meeting, Upper Lachlan Shire councillors debated the state of the Shire's assets, short-term solutions, loan borrowings for urgent repairs, and liability.

Timber bridges: Councillors debate road safety and urgent bridge repairs. File photo.

Timber bridges: Councillors debate road safety and urgent bridge repairs. File photo.

It was expected that urgent repairs would be completed within six months, director of infrastructure Mursallen Shah said. However, the full extent of the associated costs to maintain, repair or replace at least 16 bridges is not known.

Councillor Richard Opie urged council staff to review the load limits with people affected to find a temporary solution.

"We won't be trying to cut corners... we want to make this as short term as possible," acting general manager Andrew Croke replied.

"Roads and Maritime Services and the council will work together to coordinate a response to remove weight restrictions as fast as we can."

Consulting engineers, Xavier Knight, inspected concrete bridges this week, Mr Croke added.

The council accepted recommendations from the manager of assets and design to transfer funding from the Julong Road timber bridge replacement towards the Kangaroo Creek replacement bridge. Additional money will also be made available for urgent maintenance.

This means that load limits will be imposed on the Julong Road bridge.

Meantime, the council hopes to maintain access into Bigga throughout construction.

Information from consultants Pitt and Sherry estimated maintenance costs for 16 bridges would total $503,100.

Already, $200,000 is allocated to the Harley Road bridge over Kiamma Creek, and repairs to the Kangaroo Creek bridge at Bigga Road; Peelwood Creek bridge at Cooksvale Road; the unnamed bridge at Peelwood Road; Coates Creek bridge at Reids Flat Road; and Cliffords Creek bridge at Wilcox Road is funded in the 2018-19 maintenance budget.

There is $173,100 allocated in the 2019-20 maintenance program.

Cr Ron Cummins urged the council to allocate an additional $129,500 to complete the full log of repairs.

"This whole bridge thing has opened a Pandora's Box. We aren't getting out of it for $129,500," Cr James Wheelwright said.

"We have a policy of not borrowing for roads... but we borrow for bridges.

"Apply for loans, for whatever money we need to fix this problem.

"We are an agricultural council (and) those roads and bridges are the most vital aspect."

But Mayor John Stafford would not support unlimited funding.

"We have to do it in a studious manner," Cr Stafford said.

"This should go in the long-term debt, fix the job properly and be over it," Cr Wheelwright retorted.

"I'm anticipating the numbers are quite more substantial," acting general manager, Andrew Croke said.

"We will have to go and borrow."

Meantime, Cr Opie implored the council to call a community meeting.

"We've got sucker lambs coming off in three months," Cr Opie said.

"I want to talk about what we're doing to help these farmers.

"We've got a problem, we need a meeting."

However, Cr Ron Cummins had a more pressing issue than fodder and freight.

"Our greatest concern is for the safety of our road users," Cr Cummins implored.

He recounted a 2007 incident in which the coroner found Gosford City Council could have prevented five deaths following a road collapse.

Newcastle Herald reports stated that NSW Deputy State Coroner Paul MacMahon accepted expert evidence that the road collapsed because of Gosford Council's failure to adequately maintain the culvert, despite road subsidence and specific warnings in 2002 and 2004 and a quote to rebuild the culvert in 2004.

"We are in the same position," Cr Cummins said.

"We can be like Gosford City Council and ignore that advice or we can lower our liability by taking action right away."

It is expected that a report would be available to the council which could include the installation of temporary structures, as well as further information on cost estimates.

Cr Brian McCormack declared a pecuniary interest due to being a partner in the trucking transport business and did not participate in the debate, and vote.