• 57°

Officials mull road fix plans

Lincoln County taxpayers will not have to foot the bill torepair hurricane damage to five road and bridge sites throughoutthe county, even though federal disaster reimbursement pledged bythe Federal Emergency Management Agency will be less thanoriginally hoped for.

Lincoln County Civil Defense Director Clifford Galey said FEMAhas determined it can reimburse the county for only one of fiveroad and bridge sites identified as damaged by Hurricane Gustav inearly September. But the remaining needed repairs – all to StateAid roads – will be funded by the county’s four-year State Aidallotment.

“That damage is on State Aid roads, therefore FEMA can’t doanything with them,” Galey said. “All of that work has to gothrough State Aid, and there should be federal dollars through thehighway department for those damages, too.”

Dungan Engineering, PA Civil Engineer Ryan Holmes said thatwhile FEMA will release emergency funding to repair erosion damageto Windmill Road, similar damage to Bogue Chitto Road,Jackson-Liberty Road, Topisaw Drive and Zetus Road will be repairedby the county during future State Aid highway projects, which arebeing drawn up now.

“We’ve got some maintenance projects in the works to addressthose road and bridge problems,” he said. “Some need repairing,some need replacing and the supervisors have agreed they’re readyto do some of that. Our next step is to program the projects andsend that information to State Aid.”

Holmes said the approximately $200,000 worth of repairs willlikely begin sometime in 2009. Since none of the damage was severeenough to constitute a hazard, the county will have plenty of timeto attack the repair projects.

“We were fortunate that none of them were a danger to publichealth,” he said.

The exact cost and start time of the projects is unknown, asFEMA officials are still in the field gathering estimates andcontact with the State Aid office is preliminary.

Furthermore, FEMA reimburses projects after the work is done, sothe county will have to complete repairs to Windmill Road beforefederal payments are received.

Dungan Engineering, PA Principal Jeff Dungan said most countyroad projects will be on hold until spring 2009 per request by theMississippi Office of State Aid Road Construction.

He said the office is requesting projects not be bid untilcloser to start time, as the constantly fluctuating cost of fuel -which drives the prices of almost all road construction – makesaccurate bidding difficult.

“With fuel prices like they are, if we ask someone to bid on ajob where they’re going to use the bulk of the materials in May,that’s a long way out to depend on petroleum prices,” Dungan said.”The office has advised we wait until after the first of the year,which is fine.”

When the projects begin, Dungan said further assistance from theMississippi Division of the Federal Highway Administration might bepossible for repairs to Zetus Road.

Dungan said FEMA’s acceptance of only one of the Gustav-damagedproject sites was appropriate. FEMA protocol calls forreimbursement to sites damaged in full by disasters, not justpreexisting problems that may have been exacerbated.

“They’re being fair, like they should be,” he said. “We hadhoped they would look at some drainage structures that Gustavcertainly didn’t help, but they pretty accurately identified whatwas caused by Gustav and what was aggravated.”

Of the remaining sites – the four future State Aid projects -Dungan said FEMA does not release emergency funding for federallyfunded routes.

“This is about as far as we’re going to get,” he said. “We feltthey were pretty fair about it.”