The Claiborne commissioners spent a substantial portion of their regular monthly meeting last week listening to several Ferguson Ridge community residents who say they are more than a little upset at the lack of repairs being done by the County Road Department.
Commissioner Charlton Vass said a group met the week before with Road Superintendent Ron Pittman to address their concerns. Vass said it is his understanding no roadwork has been done in that particular part of the county for some 35 years.
Ferguson Ridge resident John Carter asked for a timeline as to when his community can expect work to begin on the deteriorated roadways.
“We had a community member – Mr. Eads – a couple months ago, die. The Claiborne County Ambulance (Service) refused to drive down to his house (because) the road conditions are terrible.
“I don’t think we should put a price on a person’s life,” said Carter.
He named several surrounding roads that were recently repaired.
“A couple weeks ago, they came and worked on Whitaker Road, and it’s already torn apart,” said Carter, adding he is aware of the inclement weather the county has recently suffered.
“But it (Whitaker Road) wasn’t done right,” he said.
Whitaker Road resident Barry Davis said he was surprised to leave his home over blacktop roadway and return to gravel covering the road.
“To me, if you upgrade a road, you upgrade it. If it’s a gravel road and you tar and chip it, that would be upgrading it. If it’s a blacktop road when you move there, you want a blacktopped cap on it,” said Davis.
Whitaker Road resident David Carter said it recently took the ambulance 18 minutes to travel what normally would have been a two minute trip to his house.
Carter said a member of his family, who is severely diabetic, had already gone into convulsions by the time the ambulance arrived.
“You know what the ambulance driver told me. If your road gets any worse, don’t call us,” said Carter, adding certain delivery companies have told him the same thing.
“What happens when I can’t get out of my road, and my ten month old baby girl is looking at my mother, who is diabetic and has gone to zero and is brain-dead. You cannot fix that,” said Carter.
Margaret Carter, another Whitaker Road resident, said she had witnessed for the last 30 plus years roads all around hers being repaired while her roadway was left to further deteriorate.
Carter questioned the use of her “hard-earned” tax dollars being wasted on shoddy work.
“It all got washed out and that’s money wasted. It (Whitaker Road) needs to be fixed, and fixed right,” said Carter, adding the roadway is in dire need of being correctly ditched, as well.
Road superintendent Ron Pittman said he is currently awaiting word on a tornado recovery grant. A portion of those funds could be diverted to the Ferguson Ridge community for roadwork, he said.
He asked the residents to be patient, citing inclement weather for much of the current condition of the county roads.
“We’re not going to be able to fix them all. Once we start running to a tornado event and we have to pull off for six weeks, once we have to go over here to deal with a flood, and once we have to go over here with a winter storm event – it takes time to recover from those,” said Pittman.
There are over 100 miles of tar and chip roadways, he said, within the county. The oil used in that type of mix is of a lower quality than was used decades ago. Pittman said the current tar and chip is now water-soluble, which has a much greater tendency to break down at a faster pace.
County attorney James Estep III said liability issues could arise if someone was injured as a result of an accident along a roadway that the county had allowed to go unrepaired for a lengthy time.
Commissioner Bill Keck questioned Pittman about the recent repair of a residential driveway near his home. Keck said he witnessed Road Department equipment grading and laying gravel on that particular driveway.
He told Pittman he lives on one of the worst roads within the county. Yet, nothing has been done to repair that roadway.
“I know you’ve done more driveways than that. You need to get off the driveway thing and put it on the roads,” said Keck.
Chairman David Mundy said the commissioners had adopted a resolution some time ago allowing the Road Department to repair driveways if determined that certain entities such as Home Health could not negotiate the driveway due to deterioration.
The Road Department, Pittman said, prioritizes its repairs according to volume and traffic flow.
Reach Jan Runions at 423-254-5588 or on Twitter @scribeCP.