The Norman Transcript

April 18, 2014

Fallin disappointed SBAdenied loans

By Bailey Elise McBride
The Associated Press

OKLAHOMA CITY — Gov. Mary Fallin said Thursday she is disappointed that a federal agency denied a request for loans to businesses in two Oklahoma towns affected by an emergency bridge closure.

The bridge was closed on Jan. 31 after cracks were found in the beams of the truss system that holds up the 76-year-old structure.

While the U.S. Small Business Administration rejected Fallin’s request, it has reached out to businesses in the area to offer assistance in other ways, said Rick Jenkins, a public information officer for the SBA Disaster Field Operations. The SBA bases its decisions on whether there was a sudden event that caused severe damage.

“Because the bridge was closed due to maintenance ... there were no sudden physical events that caused severe damage which would cause the bridges closure. That’s why we had to deny it,” Jenkins said.

The governor requested the declaration for Cleveland and McClain counties on April 7. The closure of the James C. Nance Memorial Bridge connecting the two towns has resulted in a 45-minute one-way trip between Lexington and Purcell.

“The bridge’s closure has caused economic hardships to many businesses in Lexington and Purcell, with some reporting a 30 to 50 percent decline in sales,” Fallin said.

The bridge is scheduled to reopen June 14, though both the governor’s office and Lexington City Manager Charlie McCown believe it could open earlier.

“The latest email I received, actually this morning, from (the Oklahoma Department of Transportation) said they’re still targeting June 14; however, in speaking with them, they’ve indicated the engineering firm is well ahead of schedule, and they’re being motivated by a $1,500 per hour incentive to get it done early,” McCown said.

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