Concerns voiced on Highway 98 bridge proposal

by Sean Dunlap

The Franklin County Board of Supervisors discussed the upcoming replacement of the U.S. Highway 98 Homochitto River Bridge with county engineer Mike McKenzie, who said the current plan for the project will involve closure of the 1950s-era bridge and rerouting of traffic to Yap and Gloster roads.

McKenzie told the board he asked MDOT for traffic counts for Highway 98 near the bridge and for Yap and Gloster roads.

“I emailed them and asked them about their traffic count,” he said. “Right now, MDOT’s current volume maps on the internet — which anybody can get to — show the traffic count on Gloster and Yap to be around 330 cars a day. The traffic that they showed on 98 was more than 4,000.

“So, if they shut (98) down and half of those come over here (through Yap and Gloster roads), then you’re going to go from 300 to the 2,000 range. And based on their numbers, at least 200 of those vehicles per day would probably be trucks. You wouldn’t want 200 trucks a day coming through there. Gloster and Yap roads for sure would be destroyed.”

“We don’t want trucks coming through there. That will destroy those roads and (Meadville’s Walnut) street,” District 2 Supervisor Henry “Eddie” Stebbins agreed.

Gloster Road, inside Meadville’s corporate limits, becomes Walnut Street and town officials have previously expressed their concerns about what large volumes of detour traffic could have on municipal streets looking for the shortest route around the bridge closure.

McKenzie went on to say MDOT had talked about putting two inches of asphalt over Yap and Gloster roads after the bridge project was completed.

“Yeah, but they didn’t say anything about base failures,” Stebbins added.

“I asked them about base failures and they said that wasn’t included in the plans,” District 5 Supervisor and Board President Jimmie “Bodi” Bass said.

“Their only other choice is to buy more right-of-way and build a detour bridge so they don’t put more traffic on us,” McKenzie said.

“Their (thoughts were) that they would rather not spend that money to do that. They would rather do something that would help us in the long run.

“Another option is, y’all make a counter offer and say ‘Yeah, we’re OK with that, but you’re going to have to do something to the road other than just the two-inch overlay. That ain’t going to cut it.’ They told us they didn’t have any more money for that, (though).”

In other action at the meeting, Chancery Clerk Jill Jordan Gilbert told the panel that Entergy Mississippi had assessed all county-owned buildings — except for the library — and provided a quote for the replacement of fluorescent lighting with energy-efficient LED lighting.

The power company provided individual quotes for the courthouse, health department, Department of Human Services-Welfare office, maintenance shop, AJFC-Soil Conservation building, Mississippi State Extension Service office building and the Franklin County School District’s Superintendent of Education offices, with the total cost for the county coming to $12,878 and the portion paid by Entergy being $49,317.

Gilbert said she felt the portion the county would have to pay for the library would be around $3,000.

The board voted to move forward with the lighting replacements, contingent on the price quoted for the library.

Also during the session, supervisors took up these items of business:

• Opened bids for work to be done on Freewoods Road where erosion is causing damage along a stream embankment.

Bids received were from Dozer LLC, in the amount of $71,275; Midway Construction Inc., for $60,950; and Hope Enterprises, for $68,375.

The board accepted Midway Construction’s quote, as it was the lowest and best submission.

• Heard from Gilbert that three-year interest quotes were received for a new garbage truck for $223,000 — 4.65 percent from United Mississippi Bank, 4.90 percent from Trustmark and 6.05 percent from Bank of Franklin.

The quote from UMB was accepted.

• Approved the placement of two school bus turnarounds as requested by the Franklin County School District – one on Horseshoe Road and the other on Knoxville Road.

• Approved the payment of $20,384.60 to Midway Construction Inc., for work on Bedford-Tillman Road.

• Gave approval to purchase a ZOOM account for courtroom use for $149.90 per year.

• Approved paying claims to The Franklin Advocate in the amounts of $46.12, $61.96 and $121.80 for notices to bidders for county depositories, petroleum products and bridge materials and $99.96 for publishing of the monthly cash disbursements journal.

• Gave approval for the board, Gilbert, county bookkeeper Tonya Blackwell and board attorneys Bill Halford and Morgan Halford Poore to attend the Mississippi Association of Supervisors Legislative Conference in January.

• Approved payment of $75 to the District 5 Fire Department for rental of its building for use as an election polling site.

• Approved reimbursing Mississippi State University Extension Service Agent Keith Whitehead $24.05 for the purchase of two yearly planners.

• Voted to add Friday, Nov. 25 and Friday, Dec. 23 as part of the Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday observances as allowed by Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves, in addition to Thursday, Nov. 24 for Thanksgiving and Monday, Dec. 26, which is when the Christmas holiday will be observed by government offices as Christmas Day is on Sunday this year.

The next regularly scheduled business meeting of the board, which is open to the public, is set for 9 a.m., Monday, Dec. 5.