VIDEO: Wild weather, lack of state funds hinders road paving in DeKalb

VIDEO: Wild weather, lack of state funds hinders road paving in DeKalb

PHOTO: The DeKalb County Commission reviews bids for paving materials at today's (September 12th) commission meeting. (Tyler Pruett | Southern Torch)

By Tyler Pruett, Managing Editor

FORT PAYNE, Ala. — (Video at the Bottom) At today's meeting of the DeKalb County Commission, commissioners held a discussion regarding road paving within the county. Road Department Director Tom Broyles began the meeting with an update on the storm damage from Hurricane Irma, and notified the commission that the road at Buck's Pocket State Park that the department had been working on had been reopened.

District I Commissioner Shane Wootten inquired of Broyles regarding the paving: "Because of this unusual weather year and this rain we've gotten recently, we run into the situation in my district where we don't have access to our chert pit, because our chert pit is the type that once it gets wet it takes it a long time to dry out. Next year, as you and I have discussed, we have several roads in my district that are currently tar and gravel roads that have deteriorated to the point that we're going to have to reclaim them. We do not have the funds to re-tar and gravel those roads, so we will have to put chert back on them. That chert pit, with it's history of getting wet and taking a long time to dry out, do you know of any other chert pit in the Valley Head area or that area that we might can procure some chert from and prepare for next year?"

Broyles replied: "The only thing I know about would be the same type material as that is. I don't know of anything up there that would be any better than what we are getting. All that material has a high percentage of clay in it; that's why it gets so sticky and slick. Thats why it takes a long time to dry out. The material like we have in the Collinsville pit does not have that much clay, a little more rock in it. It's a lot more forgiving in weather like this than that is. I really don't have a good answer to that. You know, we had explored the possibility of trying to get back this old Evans pit, but after Ben and I looked at it and we walked that property, I don't think there is anything left enough to justify trying to get back into it. And I really don't think it's near as good material. What's left in it has been excavated from it. We've hauled material from some of those pits up there, and it doesn't seem that different from what we haul from Sulphur Springs."

Then Wootten said, "I got a call from someone the other day, and it looks we watched the forecast and everyone time it's fixing to rain we come work on their road. But, it does rain around here and we don't have any control over that. I think we do need to start looking through this winter and thinking about what we are going to be able to do next year. We have several dirt roads that need some base on them, and those roads we are going to have to take back to dirt roads, we are going to have to try to figure out something. They have to have something done."

Broyles then said, "Those roads that are in need of being reclaimed, they already have a chert base under them, we may just have to reclaim them and let that be our base until we can do something more substantial. That would be as good as anything you could haul. Part of it may be better, because part of it was probably hauled out of this pit when were still taking material from there. We may want to look at that, and we may want to look at putting some chips or something and reclaiming that and incorporating it in the width of whats already there. It's all got a chert base under it already; I don't know of anything thats better than whats already there. There's no easy answer to your question is what I'm trying to tell you.

Then said Wootten, "In the last couple of weeks I've gotten more phone calls than I've probably gotten in the previous year combined. A lot of them were dirt roads, and the public just needs to understand that it's going to be a while. It's going to be according to the weather, what we are able to do. The weather has got us behind this year. The road maintenance issues that we have anyway, we don't have the manpower to be able to keep up with them, because of the lack of funding to be able to resurface roads in the past has really caught up with us."

Commissioner Wootten then explained that he'd gotten a lot of calls about patching roads in the last few weeks. He explained that the road department keeps a list of roads to be addressed, and when a call comes in about a road in bad shape, it gets added to the patching list. If a road is in particularly bad shape, it may get moved up the list. Wootten then read aloud a list of 16 different county roads in his district alone. He also noted that a recently patched road, County Road 608 and it took crews 16 days to complete that job alone.

"712, 803, 727, 228, 764, 611, 754, 775, 721, 719, 371, 815, 783, 219, 222, and 664 is the patch truck list," said Wootten. "If your road is not on that list, you're probably are not going to get it patched this year. If your road is on that list, you may not get it patched this year."

"Our hands are tied. We only have so many employees and so much ability. Unfortunately, it's something that the state legislature has let us down, year after year. When we've been begging for more money and begging for more money. We've been telling them it's coming, and now it's here. And people are really starting to have problems with their roads, and it's going to get worse and worse," continued Wootten.

"Anytime you have to reclaim a paved road, it tells you there is a problem somewhere," added Broyles.

"And the county commission is the one they can get ahold of. And they don't realize that the state has took that ability away from us, and they continue to take the ability away from us to make the decision. The state legislatures are the ones that need to be the ones getting the calls. Our hands are tied.... we've tried and tried; so it doesn't do any good to call and chew us out about it. Because we don't have the ability to do anything about it. People don't understand why it's that way, but it is that way unfortunately," explained Wootten.

"These guys up here (Wootten's fellow commissioners) run into the same situation that I do. Mr. Harcrow takes calls all the time, bless his heart, I don't know how he does it. And we get chewed out time and time again about things that aren't under our control. And it's time for us to say who's in control, and that's the state legislature. So, the state legislature is the ones that needs to be hearing from the people," continued Wootten.

Then said Broyles: "The last tax increase we had was what, (19)92? Just to look at the increases in material costs, fuel, gas, equipment, trucks, salaries, things like that, it takes a toll on it. Really, if they get to looking deep, it's amazing we can do what we can with what we've got to do with. It's a struggle and there is no easy answer to the list of roads you got, there is not an easy answer to that. We didn't get in that shape overnight and we won't get out of it overnight either."

"Where are we at on the equipment purchase for the tar and gravel and patching, that we..." asked District II Commissioner Scot Westbrook.

"We have the equipment purchased, we have the distributor and the two spreaders and we have those purchased...." answered Broyles.

"Do you have an estimated timeframe that, that might be functional for us to utilize?" asked Westbrook.

"Not a real good one. Depending on the weather, we might be able to do some work this year. I'd say in the month of October. It won't take but just a little while to mount the spreaders on the trucks. It might take a little bit more time to actually put the parts on the distributor that it needs. Then you've got to get materials stockpiled and figure out where you are going to go with it. Then again, it depends on the weather, and how far behind we are on other things," explained Broyles.

Other updates from the meeting:

  • Passed a resolution closing and vacating County Road 9.
  • Passed a resolution closing and vacating County Road 862, a dead-end road on the top of Lookout Mountain.
  • Accepted a road in the Story Brook subdivision off of County Road 505 near Rainsville.
  • Authorized Road Department to enter into an agreement with Jackson County to do road reclamation.
  • Awarded annual bids for road department materials.
  • Chief Deputy Michael Edmondson reported that the vehicle sale held by the Sheriff's Office netted $5000.00 from the county owned vehicles and $27,500.00 from the Task Force vehicles sold.
  • Accepted resignations of Norma Marquez and Crimson Long from the DeKalb County Jail.
  • Hired Adam Wintzell and Zacquez Bell to fill the positions vacated by resignations at the jail.
  • Honored a request from Leslie Francisco to transfer from a full time corrections officer to part time corrections officer.
  • Transfered Sebastian Gomez from part time corrections officer to full time corrections officer.
  • Hired Thomas Underwood as a Part Time School Resource Officer at Crossville.
  • Approved a resolution regarding the CDBG grant for road paving.
  • Approved the Council on Aging/Public Transportation Holiday Calendar.
  • Announced a bonus given to the county for $22,500.00 for a low loss ratio among county employees for the last five years.
  • Posted a job in payroll to fill a vacancy to replace an employee who is training to replace 40-year employee Connie Bell, who will be retiring soon.
  • Awarded temporary employment bid to First Choice.
  • Approved a cost of living adjustment of 2.5 percent for employees and reviewed the budget for the 2018 Fiscal year.
  • Commission President Ricky Harcrow announced that an audit had been conducted by the state, and "not a dime" was out of place at the conclusion of the audit.
  • Received an update on Hurricane Irma damage and recovery from EMA Director Anthony Clifton.

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