County considering road transfer to Rex Lumber

Published 3:00 am Saturday, April 7, 2018

As part of a project to bring Rex Lumber to Pike County, the county commission will begin consideration of transferring a portion of County Road 7724 to the company.

This is the second road vacation by the county this year, after voting to give Lockheed Martin a 2.9-mile portion of County Road 7717 in March.

Unlike that road, this section of road is unpaved, and the county is planning to build a new road to replace this portion by using industrial access grants.

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“It’s more like a road relocation,” said County Engineer Russell Oliver. “The mill site property is actually on both sides of that section of road. We’re looking to vacate the north end of 7724 where it is now and then build a new road to the north mostly parallel to what’s being vacated.”

The construction of a road is in the project agreement with Rex Lumber in addition to the $600,000 property the county provided and $150,000 to pay for capital expenses.

In exchange for the county’s investment, Rex Lumber committed to investing over $100 million into the local economy and providing 110 jobs initially.

The county will hear about vacating the road for the first time Monday at their regularly scheduled meeting.

The last road vacation brought controversy from residents in the area, who claimed Lockheed Martin should not be given the public road to help business. That was a paved road and no new road is planned to replace it.

Oliver said this process will be similar to the one taken with Lockheed Martin, which includes due diligence being taken by Oliver and county attorney Allen Jones and a public hearing.

The commission will also hear from Sheriff Russell Thomas Monday about his desire for them to take over the jail food fund, which is currently in his hands and is considered a personal account.

The request comes after the revival of a controversy over jail food programs in the state due to a lack of monitoring and instances where sheriffs have pocketed hundreds of thousands of dollars over years thanks to the law’s provision that funds remaining once the food is paid for goes to the sheriff.

Thomas said he has been trying to get the commission to take on the fund for years due to its controversial nature.

The commission meeting will be held upstairs at the Pike County Health Department Monday, April 9. The work session will begin at 5:15 p.m. and the business meeting will follow at 6 p.m.