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County deals with rain fallout

Just how much rain is too much?

Well, if you are responsible for the 300 miles of dirt roads in Pike County, you have only to look at January and February for an answer.

“Everybody knows it has been raining it seems like non-stop,” said Russell Oliver, Pike County engineer. Records from the Choctawhatchee, Pea and Yellow Rivers Watershed Management Authority confirm just how much.

“We’ve gotten nearly 18 inches of rainfall in the first two months of this year,” Oliver told the Pike County Commissioners during a work session on Monday. “In February, we had almost 9 inches of rainfall according to the Troy gauge – that’s over twice the average of the normal amount for the month.”

The watershed authority recorded 8.84 inches of rainfall in February, seven inches more than the 1.76 that fell in February 2019. And January saw 9.16 inches of rainfall, nearly 3 inches more than last year.

“And if it’s slow and consistent, spread out of a matter of time, it soaks the dirt roads and if they have any kind of traffic on them, that’s not good,” he said.

Unfortunately, that long, soaking rainfall is exactly what the county faced.

Now, Oliver said, the road department is tasked with trying to regrade and repair the damaged roadways. “We’ll pull back out of it; it’s just going to take a little bit of time,” he said.

Oliver said the department is making a list of priority areas, including those which chronically need repair after heavy rains, and is beginning repairs now.

To assist with the process, commissioners on Monday approved the purchase of a new grader, which was planned for next year. “We only have three graders and we were planning on selling one next year and replacing it,” Oliver said. “We have two graders slated for auction and one undergoing repair right now … so we have zero graders available.”

Oliver said the grader can be purchased with financing in arrears, and payments will begin after the surplus grader is sold next year.

In additional business on Monday, commissioners:

• Approved $60,000 for spot level projects discussed previously.

• Approved $1,500 for Pike County’s participation in a regional hazard mitigation plan.

Heard an update from Herb Reeves, emergency management agency chief, regarding the threat of the novel coronavirus, COVID-19. “We are closely monitoring what’s going on with the coronavirus and later this week or early next week we’ll be convening representatives of our local medical providers to talk about the situation,” he told commissioners. “We don’t have a case now in Alabama, but we are watching what is going on around us.”

Approved the appointment of Curtis Shaver and Michael Rhodes, both of the Troy Fire Department, to the Southeast Alabama Emergency Medical Services Council. Troy Fire Chief Buford Stephens said the regional council meets in Troy and while the Troy Fire Department has always been active in attending meetings, this is the first time Pike County has been invited to have voting members on the council.

Approved the resignation of Courtney Brown from the commission office. County Administrator McKenzie Wilson said she plans to try and reassign Brown’s duties before making a request for refilling the position.

Approved two budget amendments: one allowing the $60,000 expenditure for spot leveling and the other correcting entries so the inflow and outflow on jail planning expenditures match.

The commission meets again on March 23.