Unpaved road may lead to lawsuit

Published 8:05 pm Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Members of Pleasant Hill Baptist Church say the unpaved road leading to their church desperately needs repaving.

The members of Pleasant Hill Baptist Church in Brundidge say they may sue the Pike County Commission over the lack of paving on the county maintained road leading to the church.

David Lampley, who is spearheading the effort to have the road paved, said the church membership has fought for many years to get the road paved.

“But we are traveling the same road as our forefathers did 150 years ago,” Lampley said. “Pleasant Hill Baptist Church is listed on the Alabama Historical Commission’s Black Heritage List and on the historic cemetery register. This is a historic area for the African- American community and, when it rains, we have to slip and slide to get to church and sometimes we can’t even make it.

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“We have asked the Pike County Commission many times to pave the road but we have been told that there’s not enough traffic on the road for us to be high on the list. We believe that it’s discrimination on the part of the Pike County Commission.”

Lampley said the church is seven-tenths of a mile off the Tennille Road but the dirt road loop is about three miles.

Because of the difficulty in getting to the church when rains are heavy, Lampley said the church is losing membership.

“A long time ago, mules would slide on their knees in the mud trying to get people to church,” he said. “Now, we’re still sliding in the mud trying to get to church, so we have contacted the Department of Interior in hopes of assistance through the Equal Opportunity Program. We will also be in contact with our incoming Congresswoman Martha Roby to see what assistance she can give us in getting the road paved.”

Lampley said he has talked with the Pike County Commission several times and most of the commissioners seem to understand the situation and want to help.

“The county put gravel on the road several times but, they keep telling us there’s no money to pave it,” he said. “With all the money they have spent on putting gravel on the road, they probably could have paved it. Anyway, it looks like to us that there should be some money to help small communities.”

Lampley said Russell Oliver, county engineer, said that the cost of paving the .7-mile from the Tennille Road to Pleasant Hill Church would be about $187,000.

“He said it would cost about $600,000 to pave the road all the way,” Lampley said. “We have a petition signed by about 700 people – church members, neighbors, friends and members of the church families of previous pastors – that want to help us get this situation fixed. We are sending copies of the petition to the federal agency so they can see what support we have.”

Harry Sanders, county administrator, said he is not aware of any plans by Pleasant Hill Baptist Church to file a discrimination suit against the county.

“Mr. Lampley has attended several Commission meetings but I have no knowledge of any legal actions being taken,” Sanders said. “It’s not a matter of the Commission not wanting to pave the road, it’s just that funds have not been available.”

Sanders said there is certain criteria that dictates priority when paving roads, including the amount of traffic on the road and the number of people served by that road.

“We understand the desire of the people but the situation is what it is,” Sanders said. “We even have paved roads that need repair. We are limited by the funds we have. I don’t know of any opposition the commissioners have to paving the road to Pleasant Hill Baptist Church but right now we don’t have the necessary funds.”