The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

Local News

October 7, 2010

LEARNING ON THE JOB

ACJVS students on site for construction of nation’s shortest covered bridge

GENEVA — Nelson Terry isn’t eyeballing anything.

With the precious timber carefully harvested, cut, kiln dried and preserved, drilled, fitted with hardware and now in various stages of construction, every cut counts, so Terry, a construction student at the Ashtabula County Joint Vocational School, is measuring twice and cutting once.

The ACJVS students have been working in the rain all week at the construction site of the nation’s shortest covered bridge on West Liberty Street in Geneva. On Monday the students worked on the floor of the bridge and are now two days into the construction of the wall trusses, construction teacher Jack McMurphy said.

“They are doing a great job,” he said of his students. “This weather is not helping, but the students are productive and enthusiastic and things are coming along.”

The students have been working with the raw timber at the ACJVS for months and began on-site work on the 18-foot covered bridge on Monday.

McMurphy said the weather has put the project about two days behind schedule, but he expects the work to go quickly.

“One wall truss is completed and that first one is always the hardest,” he said. “I expect work on the second truss to go fast. These kids know what they are doing now.”

One sunny day would help the project, McMurphy said, but there is one other slight problem that could put a hold on the construction.

“We are waiting for some metal pieces to come in from Oregon,” he said. “They are a specialty piece, not something we can run to the hardware store to get, so that might possibly cause some delay. It won’t stop construction because we have plenty of things to do here, but it could cause some delays.”

Student TJ Wilson said on-site work is harder than he thought it would be, especially because of the rain.

“I don’t know,” he said. “It is great to be on site now and see how this went from an idea on paper to a really awesome bridge.”

Student Silias Thomas worked on tightening bolt after bolt on the truss, beginning again after he thought he was done.

“You get about eight bolts tightened and then a layer (of the bridge timber) will drop down and you have to go back and tighten them all again,” he said.

The bridge has five layers of timber and Thomas had tightened each bolt five times by lunch on Wednesday.

No matter to Thomas, though. He is happy for the construction experience.

“I feel like building a house would be kindergarten stuff at this point because this project is so extensive and complicated. It is really the greatest job experience a construction worker could ask for,” he said.

McMurphy said the students will push through the “crummy weather” and the build will soon take on a life of its own.

“When the wall trusses go up, things will move fast,” he said. “Suddenly everything will come together at once. The trusses will go up and then the beam will go in and the roof will go on to keep it all together.”

McMurphy said the projects owes a debt of thanks to Schmidt Equipment for their help with the metal work.

“They have been instrumental in helping with the hardware. Companies like Schmidt that lend their help and expertise are priceless to a community like Geneva,” he said.

As for Terry, he made his cut with the saw with some confidence, but he isn’t taking anything for granted.

“I know we don’t have much margin for error,” he said, “so I am definitely sweating every cut.”

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