Bridge problem spans statewide, supervisors told

Published 5:00 am Tuesday, April 17, 2001

Deteriorating bridges continued to get Lincoln Countysupervisors’ attention Monday as they heard from state officialswho expressed similar concerns.

Floyd Kirk, State Aid Road engineer, said the county’s 291bridges was “above normal.” Of those, 44 are on a state or federalroute, with the remainder on the local system.

Of the 44 bridges on the state or federal system, Kirk said 28have timber pilings.

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“That’s getting to be a big problem,” he said.

Kirk said concrete decks are causing the timber supports to giveway. He encouraged supervisors to take a look at ways to addressthe situation, such as improving structural soundness of thepilings.

“Statewide, it’s a big problem,” Kirk said.

Of the county’s bridges on the local system, Kirk said about 75are considered deficient.

While the bridge news is not good, Kirk complimented countysupervisors on their efforts to use Local System Bridge Programfunds to replace bad bridges. He said Lincoln County had replaced17 bridges using LSBP funds while Panola County had done the mostwith 26.

“You’re doing pretty good,” Kirk told supervisors.

Supervisors, though, lamented how much time is involved gettingbridge work done. District 3 Supervisor Nolan Earl Williamson citedone estimate that it would take 77 years to get all the county’sbridges repaired.

“That’s how slow the process is,” Williamson said.

Kirk contended the process moves pretty fast. He said about 150bridges statewide are done a year.

District 1 Supervisor Cliff Givens mentioned difficulties inobtaining easements from property owners for work to be done. Someprojects have taken years for the county to get the necessaryproperty clearance, officials said.

“We’re the cause of some of this being slow,” Givens said.

On road matters, Kirk said there are 53,000 miles of roads inthe state. Of those, counties maintain about 73 percent,municipalities roughly 3 percent and state transportationdepartment the remaining 24 percent.

Lincoln County has 986 miles, of which 678 are paved, Kirksaid.

To help with maintenance, Kirk said the legislature this yearapproved counties using up to 25 percent of their State Aid roadfunds for upkeep of non-state or federal roads. Supervisors,though, those funds are obligated to improve and upkeep major stateroads in the county.

In other action Monday, Joel Yelverton, Mississippi Associationof Supervisors assistant executive director, and Dist. 39 Sen.Cindy Hyde-Smith updated supervisors on the recently-concludedlegislative session.

On the good news side, Yelverton said lawmakers doubled theamount of money headed to local governments for waste tire disposaland allocated $3.4 million for completion of rounds three and fourof the rural fire truck program. He said lawmakers will allowapplications for a fifth round of purchases, but he indicated fundsmay be limited.

“Jump in quick,” was Yelverton’s advice for departmentsconsidering seeking a truck grant.

Yelverton also mentioned a program where counties can get grantsto improve rural railroad crossings. While some crossings could beimproved, he said the grants would likely result in some othersbeing closed for safety and financial reasons.

“That’s where it gets painful,” Yelverton said.

From a county standpoint, Yelverton listed as bad a bill toincrease homestead exemption amounts. As counties completereappraisals, likely resulting in higher property values, theregular homestead credit for homeowners is increased and thespecial homestead exemption for seniors and the disabled isincreased from $60,000 to $75,000.

“There is no such thing as a tax exemption. There’s only taxshifts,” Yelverton said, indicating that revenue lost from onesource would have to be made up elsewhere.

Hyde-Smith said an approved bill creates an environmental felonyfor anyone caught stealing annhydrous ammonia, an ingredient usedin the production of crystal methamphetamine. The senator, whosestorage tanks were tampered with last March, said the thefts arehappening in all counties in the state.

“This is a bill that was needed in rural areas,” Hyde-Smithsaid.

Also Monday, Civil Defense Coordinator Clifford Galey saidpaperwork had been completed to seek reimbursement for the countyfollowing some recent storms. A disaster declaration will allow thecounty to seek funds used in bridge repairs and other work relatedto the storms.

“It looks like it’s going to be well over $100,000,” Galey saidabout county damages.

Bob Allen, board attorney, submitted a proposal to revise thecounty’s procedure when citizens request a private way for theirlandlocked property. The new method would put more legalresponsibilities on the person seeking a route over a surroundinglandowner’s property.

“We’re putting it in a more appropriate form so it can beexpedited for the board and the public,” Allen said.