County roads suffer from rain, budget doesn't

By Josh Harvison - bio | email

BAY VILLAGE, AR (KAIT) - According to the Poinsett County Judge's Office Wednesday, the county's road department is behind on many projects because of a wet summer season. Typically, the road department takes advantage of the summer months by rebuilding the bases of county roads; however, Poinsett County has been declared federal disaster areas two times in 2009. The January ice storm caused the first disaster. The second disaster was declared after heavy flooding in early summer.

"The frustrating part of this year is what the rain has done to us. It's caused us to focus on making repairs and doing emergency work rather than those routine maintenance things that you do," said Charles Nix, Poinsett County Judge.

Nix, who is in his first term as county judge, said Mother Nature has made a negative impact on the condition of county roads, but the county has also saved money.

"We've been spending our time trying to make repairs when we have wash outs or culverts wash out, so that's been a frustrating part of it. We just haven't been able to catch up," said Nix.

According to the newly released budget report for the month of September, the Poinsett County Road Department has spent $1,119,906 since the beginning of the year. The operating budget is $1,753,291. The county has exhausted nearly 60% of its yearly budget with four months left in the year.

"It's been stable. Some resources, like cost for fuel, have been better this year," said Nix.

Nix said the reason Poinsett County's Road Department budget has been stable because road department employees haven't done as much work had it not rained.

"We've got some lined up that's going to cost us a little bit, but I feel like they will really need to be repaired. I consider it borderline dangerous if we don't get them improved," said Nix. "We have one project (in Trumann) that we haven't been able to get to yet, and hopefully that will be on our schedule sometime this week."

Nix said the county may employ independent haulers before the end of the year so the road department can keep working on roads. The county employs 17 full-time road department employees. Of those, 8 men are certified on road grading equipment.

"We added a Trackhoe. We only had one and the one that we had we used in the gravel pit because we use our own gravel, do our own loading. A lot of times if we needed it on a job site to make some repairs, somewhere, to do some drainage work, we'd have to pull it off," said Nix.
Wednesday, the road department was working on a problematic bridge on Bay Village Road of U.S. 63 near the Cross/Poinsett county line.

"We hope that the repairs that we're making now, the next time we have a large amount of flooding like we did, that we'll have it taken care of and we won't be back out there after redoing our work on it," said Nix.

"We replaced the bridge with the culverts and we had to replace the culverts with a boiler," said Thomas Freeman, Poinsett County Road Department Foreman.

In the county budget, the road department has been allotted $175,000 for gravel, dirt and sand. The county has used $33,642.

"You want to go in and try, in those areas where you have chronic problems, to try and go in and do repairs above that where you can make improvements and you're not constantly going back," said Nix. "It's just kind of disheartening sometimes when people, the areas where people want you to go in and do some work for them, and the rains come and we wind up trying to put out fires somewhere else and that pulls our attention from those areas."

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