The Union Recorder

March 7, 2014

County residents waiting for better dirt roads

Kyle Collins
The Union-Recorder

MILLEDGEVILLE — Last summer, Baldwin County leadership reported on the poor condition of several dirt roads used as major thoroughfares and the plans to fix them.

Drivers struggle traversing the dirt based surfaces. Residents are still waiting for the work to commence. 

The Baldwin County Board of Commissioners approved a 10-road prioritization list for “all-weather” reconstruction Sept. 17, 2013 and accepted an annual labor contract bid from Glenn Ray Construction the following month. The county wants the dirt roads passable rain or shine rebuilt within the right-of-ways.

“The contractor will reshape the road and get back the crown and ditches. Some of the areas on these dirt roads the road is actually lower than the natural ground,” County Engineer Brian Wood said. “Water has nowhere to run off to. We’ll address that by raising the road up.”

Ray’s Construction won the bid in part because of sand and clay pit access that Wood said makes “a perfect cap to a dirt road.”

Gravel topdressing will complete the stalled county plans.

“This is going to be a slow process getting all of these roads back to an all-weather condition,” Wood said. “The main hold up is the weather. We can’t get on the roads while they are wet because we make a bigger mess.”

Winter storm cleanup tied down Public Works crews for a month.

“It’s gotten us so far behind that it’s going to be tough to get caught up,” Wood said. 

Transportation life on Avery Store Road has gotten worse the last two years, according to Avery Store Road homeowner Tina Glenn Smith. Recent precipitation means “pot holes” and “ruts everywhere.”

Trash pickup is affected as well. Smith said the truck has even gotten stuck on Avery Store.

The 27-year dirt road resident actually slid off into the ditch when turning off of Old Monticello Road recently. Smith said that’s a first.

“They had to come out the next day and fix that part of the road,” Smith said.

Rain wipes out any road maintenance and crews must wait 24 hours for the surface to dry before any scraping commences.

“If we know the rain is coming and we scrape before the rain, it becomes a mess because of all that loose dirt eroding away,” Wood said. “With all the rain, it’s been tough to keep a motor grader on the roads for any kind of rotation. We try. It’s tough when we do get the calls.”

Wood said school buses and trash trucks that have to travel on the roads do “a lot of damage when the roads are wet.”

In October 2013, the board established the top-five problem roads for improvement as funds become available. 

Commissioners reviewed county dirt road statistics on the 10 worst roads. The spreadsheet featured the number of home sites, work orders filed in the last five years and the length of each.

Lumpkin Road reigned supreme with 20 homes and well more than100 work orders requested for a 1.63-mile stretch.

Starting with Lumpkin Road as a top priority, the board then selected Sibley, Moran Springs, Avery Store and Stallings Road in that order. 

Other roads on the “prioritization list” are Bonner, Little Fishing Creek Church, Underwood, O’Quinn’s Pond and Nesmith Roads.

Drier weather would allow crews to begin work on Lumpkin Road.

“We’ve given the go-ahead to do about 1,000 feet of the worst part of Lumpkin Road,” Wood said. “The estimate came in around $10,000.”

Total price for Lumpkin’s reconstruction could approach $65,000.

County road department Special Purpose Local Option Sales (SPLOST) funds will cover costs associated with repair and road maintenance.

“It’s enough to get a couple roads done that’s for sure,” Wood said.

County Manager Ralph McMullen said during this Tuesday’s regular county commission meeting the dirt road upkeep could fall under increased future privatization of the Public Works Department.

Issues such as road care and grass cutting are becoming difficult with short staff and equipment.

Smith hopes the county can find a way to at least scrape the road and clean the ditches.

“That’s why I moved in the country. If I really wanted to live on a paved road, I would have stayed in town,” she said.