County commissioners, area loggers reach agreement

Published 10:59 pm Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Russell Johnson, a broker and timber buyer with Coastal Plain Land and Timber, once had to buy every shovel Jackson Hardware had.
A state trooper ordered the Troy business to get rid of the dirt their trucks had left in front of the Banks Buy-Rite while clearing trees on a nearby lot.
“It wasn’t a bed of mud, but he had the badge and the gun and the ticket,” Johnson said.
The following day, Coastal Plain put down a bed of rocks and had each truck stop on the rocks to have truck tires cleaned off before exiting the site.
Johnson shared the story at a meeting with Pike County officials Tuesday evening. He and other area loggers were compelled to meet with the commission after learning a logging ordinance tabled last January might be reintroduced.
Johnson’s point was that there were already laws to handle the dirt and road damage commissioners aimed to reduce with the ordinance.
“If people don’t obey the laws we have, adding a new one isn’t going to do anything,” he said. “You just need some teeth in the ones you have.”
He recommended fining guilty parties fees that would cover the expenses of cleaning and repairing the damaged roadways.
“Punish the folks who are doing wrong and allow the rest of us folks to continue to make a living,” Johnson said.
Commissioner Jimmy Barron said he was against imposing any new regulations on the loggers.
“I’m not passing any other regulations on y’all when we could work it out,” he told loggers present at the meeting.
Russell Oliver, a Pike County engineer, said the damaged, muddy roadways created hazardous driving conditions. He also reminded loggers to get permits for roadway access points they planned to add. The permits are free of charge and ensure that proposed projects are done with safety in mind.
“This is not about just the logging,” said Oliver. “It’s about us being tasked with keeping the roads safe. And when somebody tears the road up, whether it’s a kid mudding or a logger, we’re expected by the community to hold those people accountable.”
A logger recently damaged County Road 2290, including the shoulder used to enter the roadway. He was fined more than $1,000 for the repairs.
John Deloney, a buyer for Posey Kilcrease, doesn’t know the logger who did the damage. But, he could empathize with him. Deloney said the weather had taken several workdays from loggers and they were under pressure to make up the lost time and income. The driver in question had a lot of new equipment, which Deloney said meant an additional bill the logger was trying to meet.
“He’s not a bad guy. He just made a bad decision,” Deloney said. “Laws take care of bad decisions and you don’t make them again.”
Together, the group came to an agreement. Oliver will enforce the current laws, fining those who break them.
Loggers provided Oliver with contact information and asked that he call them if one of their trucks damages a road so that they could make restitutions. Anyone who does not cover the expenses incurred fixing the damage will be fined. If necessary, Commissioner Joey Jackson said the county would sue the guilty parties.

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