Commission reaches stalemate on road paving

Published 8:23 am Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The Pike County Commission voted Monday night to purchase equipment for the road department, but a tie vote will keep the membership of Pleasant Hill Baptist Church slipping and sliding on a muddy road.

The commission approved County Engineer Russell Oliver’s request for $170,000 to purchase a boom mower, a forestry shredder chipper and a lowboy tractor truck. However, the commissioners locked at three votes each on Commission Ray Goodson’s motion to pave .9 miles of Pleasant Hill Church Road at a cost of $150,000.

Goodson, Charlie Harris and Homer Wright voted in favor of the motion and Robin Sullivan, Jimmy Barron and Oren Fannin voted against it.

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Goodson said that he was surprised and heartbroken that the motion didn’t carry.

“The money is there and we owe it to these people to pave Pleasant Hill Church Road,” Goodson said. “We have $600,000 in reserve, and we could have bought the equipment and paved the road. These people deserve to have their church road paved. They have been to the county commission time and time again asking for the road to be paved and again, the commission has turned its back on them. This is a sad night.”

Harris said that it was not a sad night for one reason.

“It was a tie vote so we can always come back. We have not lost yet,” he said and encouraged the large gathering of church members to keep the faith.

“The money is there. The road will be paved but not at this table. I’m not saying tonight how it will be paved, but it will be paved.”

Following the vote, the Rev. LaDon Foster, church pastor, make an impassioned plea to the commission members to look into their hearts and vote again.

“We have been here before and every time there is a problem,” Foster said. “But we know now that money is not to problem. I ask you to put away your differences. You sit where you do because of the people who put you in office. They put you in office to do the right thing. Don’t put position over people. Do one single thing so these people can get to church to worship and praise God.”

Ola Mae Lampley has been a member of Pleasant Hill Baptist Church for more than 55 years and she attended the county commission meeting believing that it would be a joyful night for her church.

“I’m surprised and so disappointed,” she said. “I’m 80 years old and I’m not going to live forever. One of my greatest desires is to see our church road paved before the Lord calls me home. I’ve got 13 children and they came on this old dirt road and they left on it. We know now that the money is there. All that we can do is continue to pray for the Lord to touch and change the hearts of these men.”

Harry Sanders, county administrator, said that the county commission does have $600,000 in reserve.

Sanders said the reserve funds are set aside so as not to be used. However, he said the commission could vote to release the funds.

Barron said the reserve funds are similar to a rainy day account and should be treated as such.

“These funds are there to be used only if absolutely necessary,” he said. “There was time when the county commission had to borrow money to pay bills. The commission has worked hard to get to the place where we can have these reserve funds to fall back on.”

Barron said the county has more than 300 miles of dirt roads and a case could be made for almost any one of them to be paved.

“Right now, we are not in a financial position to pave the Pleasant Hill Church Road,” he said. “We have paved some dirt roads with Community Development Block Grant funding. I’m going to look into whether we have a priority list for dirt roads. But I don’t want to see us back ourselves into a difficult financial position. With the economy the way it is, we have to continue to watch our finances. That’s just being good stewards of our citizens’ money.”