FAIRBURY, Neb. — A judge has ruled that Jefferson County officials are not responsible for making improvements to a timber trestle bridge that no government entity claims to own.

The ruling Wednesday came in a lawsuit that Michael Diller of Fairbury filed against the county. Diller sued in October after the bridge was shut down when a federal inspection showed it to be dangerous.

The lawsuit said the county neglected to maintain and improve the bridge — the only public access Diller and his family have to their home southeast of Fairbury in southeast Nebraska.

But Judge Paul Korslund ruled there was no evidence that Jefferson County ever accepted responsibility for the bridge.

The Works Progress Administration and the Resettlement Administration — which later became the Farm Security Agency — built the bridge in the 1930s as part of a project to build a self-sustaining farming community on the outskirts of Fairbury.

Then, in the early 1940s, the federal government began issuing quitclaim deeds, giving the land to those living and working on the land. The roads and bridges were “dedicated to the public for its use for road purposes.”

However, the Jefferson County Board voted in June 1945 against taking over ownership of the road and bridge.

“The record is clear that the Jefferson County Board expressly declined to accept title to the road when the United States proffered dedication of same,” Korslund wrote in his decision.

“The summary judgment evidence also shows that the bridge was not part of the bridge files maintained by Jefferson County, remains unidentified in Nebraska's statewide databases, and has not been subject to state inspection pursuant to federal law.”

Officials have said that replacing the bridge with a box culvert would cost between $180,000 and $200,000.

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