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School bus routes affected by road slides

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By Jimmie Earls

Slides along several roads in Washington County are not only giving members of the Washington County Fiscal Court some headaches, but once the school year starts later this week, parents and students along one road will also have to deal with re-routing school buses to avoid danger.

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Washington County Judge-Executive John Settles said there are four roads in the county that need to be repaired following heavy rains earlier in the year. The most urgent repair needs to be made to Hardesty Road near Polin Road. The other roads being looked at are Trent Lane, Coulter Lane and Haydon Brothers Road. The problem lies in the fact that the county doesn’t have the money to make the repairs, and a possible 75-percent reimbursement from FEMA must be approved before bids can be awarded and work can begin. With school starting this week, parents and students along Hardesty Road must adjust to a new bus route.

“Hardesty Road will not be repaired in time for the start of school,” Settles added. “We’re getting several calls from residents out there. Part of the road from the center to the creek slid down a foot to 18 inches and left that much of a drop and a considerable gap in the road. Part of the guardrail along the road is just hanging in the air where the road slid away from it. People have been able to pass by, staying on the blacktop with one wheel and getting into the ditch on the other side. But that would be a bit dangerous with a school bus. It’s a fairly narrow road up through there.”

James “Pogo” Mann, transportation director for the school system, said two routes will be re-routed to deal with the problem.

“There’s two buses that normally run through there, numbers 30 and 45,” said Mann. “We’ve been using Haydon Brothers Road, but there’s bad places on it, too. Mileage-wise, it’s going to affect us somewhere around 30 miles a day. We’re going to have to do some backtracking, and the drivers are going to have to leave a little earlier to drive their routes.”

Mann did not have information on how many students would be affected by the re-routing.

“With a new school year, we have people move in and move out, so it changes from year to year,” he said.

 As soon as repairs are made to Hardesty Road, the routes should return to normal, according to Mann. He also said that no other routes have been affected by road damage.

At its meeting on July 23, the fiscal court opened bids for repairs to the four roads in question.

“We had a lot of interest in this. We probably had six or seven people pick up the plans, but we only received two bids,” Settles said.

The bid packet included four projects that were bid separately. The first group of bids came from Hinkle Contracting from Paris, Ky. They bid $53,979.50 for Coulter Lane, $32,471.75 for Hardesty Road, $59,148.50 for Haydon Bros. Road and $65,781.25 for Trent Lane. Total costs added up to $211,381.

The other bid came from King Creek Drilling.

“This bid is a little bit different, which Mr. (Gary) King had told me that it would be,” said Settles. “He bid it by linear foot because each one of the projects is broken down by how many feet it was going to be. But the problem we’ve gotten into is that we don’t know how deep each of the projects will be. His turnkey job is $35 per linear foot of railroad steel that it takes to do the job. That would be determined by how deep the steel would go and how many pieces of steel would be inserted.”

“We won’t know how to figure the footing until we get a drill out there to see where the rock is,” added King. “I don’t know how you can put an exact figure on it like the other guys did without knowing how deep it’s going to be.”

Settles added, “Because there is a difference in the bid, and the projects have to be approved by FEMA, I think these also need to go to committee, because if we approve this and we don’t get reimbursed, and you know how tight our budget is, we just won’t be able to fund it if these roads are not approved. We need to move on it quickly because Hardesty Road is on a school bus route. We need to get it back on board as soon as possible.”

After two meetings with FEMA representatives last week, the county is still waiting to see how far the projects will be cut back before they are approved.

“Representatives from FEMA went out to the sites on Thursday and reviewed them,” said Settles. “They think that what we had drawn up was too much and they want to scale back on some things on two roads. And on two more, they are considering not doing extreme measures that were recommended such as piledriving. We just don’t have that kind of money to spend on those items without knowing if we’re going to get a 75-percent reimbursement from FEMA. We have to do it according to how they recommend or we won’t get the reimbursement. That is what’s causing the holdup.”

In the meantime, the county must wait until FEMA makes a decision.

“We did our part,” Settles added. “FEMA told us to get our engineer to come in with recommended repairs and they had to review it. This is the third time that FEMA has brought in a different person to look at them. I know it’s bound to be frustrating to people traveling along that road, because it’s been very frustrating to us because we have not been able to move forward and do the proper repair. We repair them enough to where people can still travel, but you can’t expect a school bus to travel Hardesty because it’s just not safe.”