File: Board President Jerome Wyatt and Chief Administrative Officer Danielle Ashley at a previous meeting. (Photo by Mark Thornton)

Engineer: Feds order 2 bridges closed ‘to earn Brownie points’

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Jones County engineer Ronnie Clark has been warning the Board of Supervisors that when federal officials took over bridge inspections, there would be orders to close some of them.

That prediction has come true, he reported in Monday’s meeting at the Laurel courthouse. Two bridges have been ordered closed — one on Old Highway 11 and one on Ovett-Moselle Road — by letter from the Federal Highway Administration.

“It’s not my intention to carry water for another consultant that doesn’t live or work in Jones County,” Clark said, so he didn’t make a recommendation to the board.

Supervisor Barry Saul made a motion to acknowledge receipt of the letter, and other supervisors agreed, but no action was taken. That means the bridges will remain open, for now, but supervisors are in the process of getting approved for $4.5 million in bond money to cover the costs of repairing bridges and roads that are in need of it.

County engineers have been handling bridge inspections for decades, Clark said, but the FHA has taken over that job because officials there believe that county engineers are reluctant to tell supervisors about costly repairs since they work for the board.

Politics are in play for federal officials, too, Clark said.

“The more they do this, the more disruption there is in the county, and they don’t care because they don’t have to hear about it,” he said. “They’re just earning Brownie points with the Federal Highway Administration.”

Saul said that one bridge on Highway 184 that’s rated at 24,000 pounds was recently being paved by the Mississippi Department of Transportation.

“They put 12,000 pounds of asphalt on it with a 4-inch overlay,” he said. “That has to factor in the weight limit.”

Clark said that’s believed to be what happened with a bridge collapse in Wayne County that killed three people in 2002.

In another road-related matter, supervisors agreed to send a letter of demand to Deep Well Services to pay for the repair of roads its trucks have damaged in Glade — Red Holifield Road and Morning Dew Road — and the Powers Community — Brown Drive.

“They were nice, paved roads and now you can’t even go up them in a car,” Saul said. “The gas company has torn them up and they refuse to clean the mud off of them. The homeowners don’t deserve this.”

All of the roads are on 16th section land, he said.

Supervisor Danny Roy Spradley said that water associations sometimes do the same thing in his district, then the county has to foot the bill, so he asked county attorney Wayne Thompson what could be done about it.

“We’ve looked at requiring permits before,” Thompson said, adding that problems have been settled on a case-by-case basis in the past. “We’ll study it again.”

The county paid special claims from Districts 3 and 4 for damage to vehicles — one that hit a sign that was put up before a flagman was in place and one for a giant pothole.

Supervisors agreed to add Avalon Drive, which is the entrance to a neighborhood off Highway 29, as a public road.

Michael Russ of the Butler-Snow law firm in Jackson reported that there were no protests for the proposed $4.5 million bonds for bridge and road repairs, so the process will proceed.