May 13, 2009 Edition

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JPs approve installation
of gates on county road

Justices Craig Stone (from left) and Junior Briner and County Sheriff Dan Ellison listen as Jim McMillon speaks about a flooded county road at Monday night's Quorum Court meeting.
Leslie Ginn
Staff Writer

Seven years ago Walnut Ridge resident Jim McMillon asked the Lawrence County Quorum Court to implement safety measures at two locations. He petitioned the court again Monday.

He brought with him a petition signed by more than 500 Lawrence County residents to show support for the effort.

The first request was to erect gates on both ends of Lawrence County Road 451 that could be locked when the road is flooded and hazardous. The county road runs between Highway 412 West and Midway Road.

It is heavily used as a shortcut between Highway 412 and Highway 63B, especially for large equipment, but three to four times a year it floods several feet deep.

"I personally have helped at least four times where people in cars were swept off the road and stranded. There have been others washed away as well. This is a dangerous situation." McMillon said.

"Having signs erected is not enough. It is going to take a new bridge or locked gates during flooding."

County Judge Alex Latham said, "We can put up signs and construct gates, but that doesn't mean it will do the job. People themselves need to also have a certain personal accountability and responsibility for their own safety."

After discussing cost and effectiveness, the Quorum Court members unanimously decided to erect gates that will be closed during flood stages, but will still allow the large equipment to pass during non-flood times. The sheriff's department will be responsible for locking and unlocking the gates.

The second half of the petition was requesting the placement of street lights at the Portia end of the Highway 63 Bypass, where it intersects with Highway 63B and County Road 504. McMillon said without any lighting it is difficult to see clearly at night to make a left turn from the southbound lane of Hwy 63 onto Hwy 63B.

"Our county government needs to do all it can do to help protect the people," McMillon said. "There may be other areas that need similar help, but we need to start somewhere."

McMillon's offer to research the cost and process of placing lighting at the current location in question was accepted. He will return next month to report.

Court members also passed the amendment to Section 2 of Act 209 of 2009, called the Jail Fine Bill, after the third and final reading. This allows for an increased mandatory fine from $5 to $20 for misdemeanor fees in district court. Tickets, such as speeding tickets, written by the sheriff's department and state police, will have this increased fine.

Funds collected from the fine must be used to defray the costs associated with the maintenance and operation of the jail. The jail fine will go into effect July 1.

In other business:

  • a resolution was passed to allow the county judge to lease a used Caterpillar grader for county upkeep on the roads. The cost will be about $1,400 at a 3.5 percent interest rate.

  • the vacation policy for the county personnel was altered. Instead of vacation being calculated from the hire date, vacation will now be aligned within the calendar year.

    Vacation time the first year will be prorated according to hire date. Employees will be required to use their allotted vacation time between Jan. 1 and Dec. 31 or lose the time.

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