Claiborne Commission: ‘What about my roads?’

Published 2:39 pm Sunday, March 1, 2020

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The Claiborne Commission spent in excess of an hour, all told, during its lengthy meeting hearing complaints and possible remedies for the poor condition of many county roads. Torrential rains over the last couple of years have aggravated already deteriorated roadways, prompting numerous residents to repeatedly voice their concerns to the Claiborne Road Department.

The commissioners have given county mayor Joe Brooks the go-ahead to submit a letter of intent to the Army Corps of Engineers, requesting recommendations.

Meanwhile, the county will be submitting applications for help from TEMA and FEMA (Tennessee Emergency Management Agency and the Federal Emergency Management Agency).

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The commission voted unanimously to have David Breeding, executive director of the Claiborne Emergency Management/Homeland Security, move forward with the filing of an application for a Hazard Mitigation Grant. This 75/25 matching grant will help pay for an environmental study.

Breeding said the study will cost about $250,000 – 75 percent of that amount paid for by the federal government. Claiborne county and the state of Tennessee will evenly divide the remainder, or 12.5 percent each, meaning the county will be responsible for $31,250. Those funds will come from the undesignated fund balance.

Ron Pittman, superintendent of the Claiborne Road Department, said the study will likely take four to five months to complete, once approved.

Pittman said he knew of similar projects that have taken up to 8 years to complete, when factoring in the paperwork, studies and the actual construction phase.

Breeding reminded the commissioners and residents that the $31,250 will pay only for the study. Depending on the type of grants available, the county could very well be looking for additional money to pay for the actual construction/repair portion of the project.

A substantial crowd of county residents, including those living on Julia Lane and in the Cave Springs communities, attended the meeting last week to voice their concerns. A few went into detail about their individual experiences.

One woman said the flood water that residents have been forced to walk through has tested positive for E-coli and parasites.

Another said several children continue to spend up to 15 minutes, morning and afternoon, walking through the floods in order to get to and from school each day.

One child and its parent are battling floodwaters to get to and from the child’s leukemia treatments. A pregnant woman, who is in the later stages of her pregnancy, said she fears going into labor while the flood waters are still high.

Tracy Neely, spokesperson for the residents, touched on the elevation in 2016-17 of a community bridge.

While it did help, it has not been a remedy to the continuing flooding of the area, he said.

He asked that the commission approve 3 considerations which include the letter of intent to the Army Corps of Engineers. The other two considerations are the request for TEMA to conduct a study of the flooding situation and for the county to apply for any available FEMA grants.

In a related matter, a resident in the Cave Springs community spent a bit of time explaining the work he has done, as a private citizen, to alleviate rainwater runoff onto the roadway, which is originating from a cave nearby his residence.

There are several pockets of roadway deterioration that can be seen across the county. Asphalt and tar/chip continue to be eaten away as erosion from repeated torrential rainfall plays havoc with inferior “EPA approved” road surface mixtures. These substandard water-based mixtures are now required to be used by all county road departments across the state.

A couple of the more hard-hit areas include Gap Creek and Lonesome Valley Roads, which Pittman says is being addressed.

The Claiborne Progress will continue to follow this story.