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May 15, 2014

Flooding causes dirt road issues throughout Hamilton County

Jasper — Jennings resident Robin Squires spoke to the Hamilton County Board of County Commissioners at their May 6 meeting about the state of the roads; specifically dirt roads. There are currently about 434 miles of dirt roads in Hamilton County and the road Squires lives on, NW 44th St., is the longest one in the county. It begins at SR 6 and doesn’t stop until it gets to the Withlacoochee River, according to Commission Chair Josh Smith.

“I’ve been calling the road department to try to get our roads worked on and it’s been about three weeks since the grader has come down our roads,” said Squires. “When they do grade the roads, they’ll cut a ditch on one side and the road is pitched away from that ditch, so when the water collects on one side, it will obviously wash across the road into the little ditch that they put down on the side of the road. Common sense says you can’t do that.”

Squires said when a ditch is cut, the dirt needs to be rolled up onto the road. He also said if a crown isn’t put on the road, all the ditch cutting is worthless.

“That water will sit in puddles on the roads, people drive down it, it softens up and splashes it out, and you get ruts,” Squires continued.

Squires said he has run heavy equipment all his life, including road graders, and he explained the proper way to grade a dirt road. Again, he said he has called the road department at least five times over the last few weeks and nobody called him back and no graders showed up. After speaking to one of the graders a while back, Squires said he learned that after they roll the dirt up onto the road and cut the top off, they roll it back off the road. When asked why they do it that way, the grader said  because there is usually trash on the roads, so they scoop it up, along with any debris or tree limbs and push it off to the side of the road so that people don’t have to drive over it.

Squires said whenever he comes upon any trash or debris along the roads he stops and throws it off to the side or puts it in the back of his pickup.

“Since we moved here, my wife used to drive the mini van,” Squires said. “She loved it. Well, she got stuck three times on the road, so we ended up selling that and buying her a four-wheel drive pickup truck.”

Whenever it rains, Squires said he can’t use his two-wheel drive vehicle because he’ll get stuck.

“I only live a mile from the main road,” he said. “What do these people do who live four and five miles down these dirt roads?”

Squires said he was told by someone at the road department that one of the graders was broken down and another one was put out of commission. The commissioners said that wasn’t true.

Smith said the reason there has been a delay in road grading is because of recent flooding. About 20 roads in the county, he said, are flooded and people don’t have access to their homes.

“Right now, we are focusing a lot on getting people to where they can drive to their homes,” said Smith.

He also explained that at the last board meeting the commissioners expressed their concern to the road department about the lack of crowns in the roads.

“The direction from this board was to install a crown in the road, and to get the trash out of the roads,” said Smith.

Since that meeting, Smith said the county, according to where one lives, received from 8-14 inches of rain.

“We’ve taken a lot of water,” Smith said. “When the rivers come out of the banks, a lot of roads wash out. There’s people right now, they’ll paddle for thirty yards, then they’ll get on a four-wheeler and they’ll drive half a mile, and then they’ll paddle some more and get in their truck and go home. There’s no way to control it because the river is out of its bank. We’re working heavily in those areas right now.”

Smith said he understood how difficult it must be for a man, his wife and kids, to have to tote bags of groceries in a jon boat to their home.

Commissioner Beth Burnam interjected there are a lot of “priority” roads that need grading right now, but the “emergencies” have been overwhelming with all the flooding issues.

Squires also mentioned that some of the graders aren’t being used to full capacity because he sees them going down dirt roads to a specific destination and not grading the road as they go, and then parking the grader at the end of the work day and sitting for 30 minutes to wait on someone to pick them up. Smith said the board would definitely look into the matter.

Smith also noted that the county has a lease program for their road grading equipment and if one breaks down it is immediately replaced.

Squires offered his services free of charge to jump into a grader on a Saturday and grade the roads for the county.

“That’s how bad it is and it needs to get fixed,” said Squires.

“Be careful what you ask for,” Smith told him, laughing.

Squires said he was serious and that all the farmers near him are upset with the condition of the roads.

Commissioner Buster Oxendine suggested that if people in the county have issues with their roads they should contact their commissioner.

Squires summed things up saying that he moved to Hamilton County in 2005 and he and his family love living here.

“It is the best place to live,” he said. “Everybody is so friendly. I had some problems around my place once. I made a phone call and, man, the farmers come running. It is a great place to live.”

Squires, who owns an aviation ranch, also said publicly to the audience, “If it’s your birthday, you come to my house and I will take you for a ride for free.”

 

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