County soon to address four-year road, bridge plan

March 13, 2014 10:42:34 AM

Carl Smith - [email protected]


Oktibbeha County supervisors are expected to turn their attention toward updating the county's four-year road plan this spring once concluding their search for a new administrator. 


County Road Manager Victor Collins said the update could come as early as April. The board is scheduled to meet 5:30 p.m. Monday at the chancery courthouse to address the administrator search and hold a public hearing on the county's comprehensive planning efforts. 


Ideologies that help form the county's four-year road plan - the debate over the cost effectiveness of paving gravel roads versus maintaining and reclaiming existing thoroughfares, specifically - have drawn numerous open-session, back-and-forth rows between board Democrats and Republicans since 2013. 


Throughout the last two years, Board President Orlando Trainer, a Democrat, called for discussions on potentially issuing bonds for new paving projects to increase residents' quality of life, while District 1 Supervisor John Montgomery and District 4 Supervisor Daniel tempered the conversation by saying the county should tend to the roads it already maintains without adding an additional tax burden on residents' backs. 


Oktibbeha County's road system is composed of about 552 miles of road, excluding streets within Starkville, Sturgis and Maben. Of those county funding-dedicated roads, 227.84 miles are gravel, while 141.67 are paved. State-aid paved roads add an additional 155.07 miles to the total, while state-aid gravel roads comprise 27.21 miles of the system. 


The county's 2013 four-year road plan estimated reclaim efforts - a process in which workers grind road surfaces down about 8 inches deep and then use soil cementing and resurfacing treatment to renovate the thoroughfare - to cost about $86,000 per mile. 


Paving costs, which include soil cementing, paving and engineering fees, were also estimated at that same figure, according to the document. 


Construction carried a higher price tag in 2013's estimate. Building, which consists of clearing and widening efforts, installing new side and cross drains as needed, hauling 6-8 inches of clay gravel and subsequent compacting, was estimated then to cost about $340,000 per mile. 


In 2013, the road plan called for 1 mile of paving work for Harris Road; a combined 7.4 miles of building work for Brown, A.W. Williams, St. Mark, Reform and Pat Station roads; and 10.80 miles of reclamation for 10 roads. The almost 20 miles of combined work was estimated at $3.57 million. 


Documents outlining the county's 2013 road expenses were unavailable at press time. 


The last approved plan states 2013 reclaim projects were previously completed, but Collins said construction efforts were hampered because of weather. Work is continuing on Reform Road, he said, and workers will then transition to Pat Station Road once final right-of-way agreements are secured with a railroad company. Additionally, workers are cleaning up parts of A.W. Williams Road, but Collins said the leftover projects will rotate over to 2014's approved plan. 


"Shifting things around isn't new because the weather does not permit us to work like we want to most of the time," he said. "We basically need a fairly dry fall and spring, coupled with a good summer. If everything works right, then we can work right." 


This year's road schedule calls for 5.2 miles of paving for Brown, St. Mark, A.W. Williams and Reform roads; 4.61 miles of construction for Pat Station, Echols, Cedar Grove, Perkins and Water Well roads; and 3.5 miles of reclamation for Harrell, Houston-Thompson, Ridgewood and Tidewater roads. The work was estimated at a combined $2.32 million in 2013. 


The 2015 schedule would pave, construct and reclaim 13.11 miles for an estimated $2 million, while the following year is scheduled for 12.57 miles of work at a combined $2.08 million. 


Although 2014's update is not formally approved, Collins is working with individual supervisors to map out road and bridge plans for their respective districts and add 2017 plans to the document. 


For example, Montgomery announced in the month's first board meeting that repairs to New Light Road and Old Highway 25, both state-aid thoroughfares, would go out for bids this spring. The two-phase, 4.2-mile project is expected to consist of base repairs, a thin-lift overlay, striping and the addition of reflectors, he said, to address safety issues associated with the roads. 


State-aid money is expected to only fund a portion of the project. The District 1 supervisor says he will move some of his allotted county funding to cover the gap. 


"These base repairs will be deep. We'll have to go in and do a total reclamation. It's so bad there for a good part of the area and is dangerous to cars," Montgomery said. "I'm putting everything I can out there on that road because that's what we, as the county, really need to do. There are other things that you want to do, but it's my top priority to get that portion of New Light Road and Old Highway 12 in line for current traffic and future traffic. You have to consider that the area is going to grow more in terms of residents." 


If the project is bid out in April, construction could begin in June or July, he said.

Carl Smith covers Starkville and Oktibbeha County for The Dispatch. Follow him on Twitter @StarkDispatch