County set to begin road work, blacktopping

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Free bulky item drop-off deadline extended to Sept. 5

By Jimmie Earls

With warm weather now here, and more vehicles on local highways, blacktopping and road repairs are among the key concerns for Washington County Fiscal Court.

Washington County Road Supervisor Albert Wimsatt told magistrates at Monday’s fiscal court meeting to start thinking about areas in the county that need blacktop.

Magistrate Morris Sweazy informed the court that the area of Claybrook Lane and Mackville Road is one of concern for drivers, and that work should be done to make it a safer intersection.

“When you come out and get onto the highway, it’s always been a dangerous place. It’s bad for a school bus to come out of. What we’re planning to do is raise the road up about three feet. I’m thinking that should be enough to see what’s coming, instead of just pulling out blindly. The way people do it now is that they pull out and go down the wrong side of the road so far and hope nobody runs over them, then they cut back over. There’s been several wrecks there, and we’ve already started a little bit on it. It’s more of a safety issue than anything else. I just want everyone to know what’s going on there and why.”

In other business:

The ice storm debris is long gone, gravel roads have been graded and the grass along county roads is being cut as the Washington County Road Department prepares for blacktopping season. Work on the bridge at Roye Lane is complete, but the road crew is still plagued by equipment breakdowns. The latest victim is the department’s tractor and arm bush hog, which caught fire earlier this month during mowing. The Washington County Fiscal Court met Monday morning to discuss the situation.

“On the right hand side where the bush hog was, that’s where the fire started,” road department supervisor Albert Wimsatt told the court. “We called the Willisburg Fire Department, but by the time they got there it had already burned up.”

Washington County Judge-Executive John Settles also weighed in on the problem by saying, “The fire department did a very good job. What little fluid was running out, they dammed up and absorbed. It didn’t meet the EPA’s minimum, so we didn’t have to call the EPA. It looked like everything was done properly.”

Settles contacted Bob Campbell at McElroy, Wharton and Boldrick Insurance to schedule an adjustor. The county is uncertain how much money they would get for the old piece of equipment, although the policy covers actual cash value, not the replacement value. Campbell asked the judge to submit values for the claim.

“I think what would expedite the whole process to get permission to start looking at replacement equipment,” Settles said to the court. “I’d like permission if you see fit to go ahead and get bids. We’ll discuss it at the next meeting, but it all depends on what we get from our insurance, and we have to look at the differential because we really have to watch our money.”

The tractor was a 2002 model that the county bought in 2003, and there were slightly less than 1,500 hours of use on the tractor when it caught fire.

Settles said the county should be able to get good value because the tractor was in decent shape for it’s age.

Magistrate Hal B. Goode asked the judge if insurance would cover the rental of equipment to continue mowing while a replacement is sought. Settles said the policy does not cover equipment rental.

The court voted to allow Judge Settles to seek bids for a piece of replacement equipment.

• The court voted to extend the deadline for free bulky item drop-off at the landfill to noon on Sept. 5. The program has been a success for the county, which decided to allow county residents free use of the landfill instead of using the county road crew to pick up bulky items from residents.

“We’ve had a lot of people call and a lot of stuff hauled out there,” Settles said. “I think it’s been a great service since we were not able to do our bulky item pickup because of the limb cleanup. I’ve had one person out in the community ask me if we were doing the bulky item pickup, and when I explained why we couldn’t, they were fine. It seems to appease people when they find out it’s free if they can get it out there. Keep in mind that it costs us money to haul it to Hardin County because we have to pay the tipping fees on those.”

Magistrate Benjamin Settles said that maybe the county should leave it open full-time. Washington County solid waste coordinator George Ann Palmer informed the court that the $20,000 budgeted income from the transfer station would decrease if the landfill were left free of charge.

Magistrate Billy Riney said he would like to see the deadline extended, and he said the free drop-off would probably be cheaper than the cost of using county workers to pick up items from residents. He asked Wimsatt if he could provide the cost to the county for using the road crew to pick up bulky items.

The court also discussed making the free drop-off an annual service or alternating years.

“I think we need to set a deadline and stick to it, then start charging again,” said Judge Settles. “Maybe it could be an alternating year thing. We may be able to do free drop-off every other year.”

The next fiscal court meeting is scheduled for July 24 at 9 a.m. at the Washington County Courthouse.