Drainage concerns along roads throughout eastern Lowndes County dominated discussions during a Monday night community meeting called by District 4 Supervisor Jeff Smith.
About 30 District 4 residents attended the meeting at the Mississippi National Guard armory on Fabritek Drive off Highway 69 South as they shared concerns about flooding on Pickensville Road, Hughes Road and a few other eastern county roads.
“The last rain we had, my wife and my son almost drove into a culvert that was not there. It had been washed out,” said Peter Jones, a resident of Hairston Bend Road off Concord Road south of New Hope. “It”s scary because they could have drowned.
“Ever since the culvert washed out, they”ve been coming out and dumping stuff to replace it, and it always gets washed away again when it rains,” Jones added. “They haven”t done the right thing to make it safe again. It”s like putting a Band-Aid on the problem.”
While Smith explained county crews recently have replaced the culvert near the intersection of Hairston Bend Road and Concord Road, he agreed larger culverts may be necessary to handle water in ditches along the road.
“I came out there when the water washed out the culvert a few months ago, and we have put another culvert in since then to replace it,” said Smith. “But the problem is that the culverts may be too small in the ditches down there. The water is rushing in faster than the culverts can take it, and we are planning to get that taken care of.”
Other residents shared concerns about drainage problems on or near their properties.
“Whenever it rains two or three days in a row, I can”t flush the toilet or wash clothes and the ditches around my house stay full and won”t drain,” said Robert Butler, who lives near the intersection of Pickens Drive and South Pickensville Road off Highway 69 South. “It”s just really messing up my property, and I would like a little help.”
Although Butler and a few other residents expressed concerns over drainage along sections of South Pickensville Road, Smith said a project to repair culverts and grade ditches in the area is pending resident approval.
“We have contacted the Tennessee Valley Authority Water Management District to help us fix the drainage problem right there,” said Smith. “Right now, we are just working on getting all the homeowners down there to sign an agreement giving up easements along the ditch so the management district can begin the work.
“I would say within three weeks crews will be on site working on that project,” Smith added, noting the project will include ditch grading and the replacement of damaged culverts in the area.
While some residents voiced troubles with county-dug ditches flooding their property, Smith explained state law prohibits county crews from correcting the problems.
“A lot of the ditches that were dug during the previous administration were not completed correctly and were not dug legally,” said Smith. “Because of that, a lot of these problems are occurring on private property and the county can not legally do anything to correct them.
“The state law is that we cannot go onto private property unless the problem is affecting the county roads,” said Smith. “We know there are some health issues involved in these problems, but the state law does not allow us the leverage to deal with those unless they are damaging a county road. Ultimately, our hands are tied when it comes to problems like that.”
Though much of Monday”s meeting focused on flooding and drainage problems, Smith also addressed District 4 road paving projects.
Earlier this year, Smith, County Road Manager Ronnie Burns and County Engineer Bob Calvert studied all roads in the county and constructed a list of several roads to be paved, said Smith.
In addition to William Roberts Road, which was recently re-paved, the road department also is scheduled to pave Martin Luther King Jr. Drive in Crawford, Schlater Road and Keefer McGee Road off Highway 45 South Alternate and McGee Road off West Lindsey Ferry Road.
“This is about catching up on our road paving and being fair with the limited amount of resources we have available,” said Smith. “I pledge to do the right thing to make Lowndes County residents safe on the roads, but if something can wait a little longer while we catch up on paving our roads, we will have to wait.”