By Christine Keeling
The days when Walter Haynie, 83, used to drive one car to the end of his long winding driveway, stop, walk across a tilting bridge, get in another car and head off to his doctor appointments are over.
The unsafe bridge that linked seven Haynie family homes to Niles-Vienna Road has been replaced, after several area companies donated labor and machinery to put in a new concrete span.
“Did I tell you I love you guys, today?” asked Grace Haynie of Canfield to Jeff Jardine, Eugene Macek and Bob Kolat of Jardine Builders and Septic System of Niles, as she stood on her family’s new bridge.
Several months ago, Grace approached Macek and Kolat while they ate breakfast at Bob Evans on Belmont Avenue and told them about her family’s plight.
Eleven of her relatives’ lived in seven homes in Vienna Township that were landlocked by Upper Little Squaw Creek. A bridge built in the early 1960s had been begun to collapse after floods and rains washed away it reinforcements. The span was the only access off the property, yet was unsafe for cars and passable only on foot.
Grace had been looking for help, but the bridge is on private property. Estimates to replace it topped $50,000.
Jardine said his company tries to help at least one family a year, but this is the biggest project they have ever undertaken.
“It was going to help 20 people and it was on Kolat’s and Macek’s hearts,” said company owner, Jardine.
The construction began Aug. 29.
“In 60 years, there’s never been that type of equipment here,” said Grace. “They were in awe.”
Her parents, Walter and Betty, watched the work from a car.
Midwest Industrial Contract Services in Girard, Ban-Gar Construction in McDonald, B&B Contractors and Developers in Youngstown, R&J Trucking of Boardman and City Concrete of Youngstown helped Jardine Builders and Septic complete the job by donating machinery and additional laborers.
Poland Concrete Products in Poland cast the bridge. The family contributed approximately $16,000 for materials.
“If every company takes into consideration that they can do one thing for someone, it would make the community better,” said Jardine.
He said he knew a lot of companies were going through hard times, but that now was the time to give back to their customers.
“Our customers helped do this,” said Jardine, as he pointed to the bridge. “Without them, we’re nothing.”
Kolat said they still plan to grade the area around the creek and add a railing to the bridge for safety. Rain and a heavier bridge than planned has slowed work a little — but the family was able to cross the bridge three days after construction began.
The new bridge is higher and wider than the old.
“My, oh my heavens, it’s really a godsend, we were basically stranded back here,” said 83-year-old Betty Haynie.
“Now we can come and go, and our nurses can come.”
Grace said the family plans to have a ribbon-cutting ceremony and picnic to thank everyone who worked on the project.