The Floyd County Fiscal Court is asking the state to provide $1.3 million in discretionary funds for road repairs.
The request came prior to a July 16 meeting, during which Kentucky Transportation Cabinet Rural and Municipal Aid Commissioner Gray Tomblyn II addressed the fiscal court, reporting that when he was appointed, Gov. Bevin asked him to travel to rural areas to discuss infrastructure needs and to “never play politics.” He said he was there to learn about the county’s infrastructure needs.
“So, we want your feedback. We want to work with you and see what we might be able to do to help Floyd County out,” he said.
Judge-Executive Robbie Williams referenced requests made prior to the meeting.
“But we do, we do appreciate what you do for us,” he said. “And I do think that you will take into consideration the concerns that we’ve expressed and, we do have needs with our roads, some safety needs that need to be addressed, and anything that you can do, we certainly will appreciate it.”
Tomblyn said he will take the county’s submission — a list of road funding requests that Williams and Road Foreman Dale Kimbler said totals $1.3 million — and will “definitely be in touch in the very near future.”
Magistrate Ronnie Akers requested an update on the Ky. 680 project, the Minnie-to-Harold connector that was stalled after Gov. Matt Bevin took office. Akers and other fiscal court members have repeatedly complained about the lack of progress on that project, reporting that only two miles of construction is needed.
District 12 Chief District Engineer Mary Westfall Holbrook said the project is in the Transportation Cabinet’s six-year road plan and could, depending on the budget, go to bid as early as next year in the new six-year plan which is under development.
The current state highway plan includes $34.6 million to improve the Minnie-to-Harold Connector from Little Mud to the Mouth of Tackett Creek — projects that are designated for completion in 2022 and 2023.
Tomblyn said it’s “probably a running joke” that projects are put in the six-year plan and never funded. He said the process has been revised and improved, however. He and Holbrook also reported that 14 of 1,000 bridges set to be replaced statewide are funded under a plan Bevin had to fix the 1,000 worst bridges in the state. Tomblin said 200 bridges were added to the total number statewide because some projects came in under estimated costs.
Akers also asked about repairs needed on U.S. 23 at the red light at Harold — an issue he previously asked District 12 Section Engineer Matt Moore about during a fiscal court meeting. Moore said that section of road will be added to another section set to be paved next year, and the Cabinet will patch potholes there until that time.
Akers also reported he’s been getting calls on six or seven breaks on Branham’s Creek, calling them “really bad,” and voicing concerns about bus travel when the school year starts in August.
Moore told him the county experienced two federal disasters in the past two years and it takes time to go through the process for federal funding. He said problems caused by the 2018 disaster are under contract and the Federal Emergency Management Agency is scheduled to visit next week to inspect damages caused by a disaster declared this year.
Williams voiced concerns about the state closing a portion of Branham’s Creek for repairs, reporting repairs to a slide on neighboring Tinker Fork may cause issues for drivers in the area.
“We’ve got a, it looks like, a project in Tinker Fork, that may turn into an emergency fairly quick for us, and we’re concerned about you all shutting the roads down on the Branham’s Creek side until we get this completed,” Williams said. “The residents could be stuck and not have a road out.”
During the meeting, the fiscal court voted to seek bids to repair the slide on Tinker Fork, located in District 4, and a slide on Plumber’s Fork, located in District 2, with officials reporting these roads are dangerous for school bus travel. Officials discussed the possibility of providing temporary fixes on these roads at the meeting.
After the meeting, Williams and Kimbler reported the county submitted a $1.3 million request for discretionary funding to fix county roads in every magisterial district.
“We’re trying to improve some of these safety issues,” Williams said. “I’m concerned about a lot of these buses. We’ve had this erosion over the years. We’ve not had the money to go out and fix these roads. Listen, we’ve got roads in District 2 that aren’t fit for travel. You can’t drive ATVs on them.”
Kimbler said that while reviewing roads to find those in need of repair for the discretionary funding request, officials decided to turn three roads in the Wayland and Garrett areas “back to gravel because they were so bad.”
“There was more gravel on them than blacktop, where gravel had been used to patch,” he said.
Williams said the county doesn’t receive half of the money it needs to maintain 400 miles of county roads.
“I don’t know how we do it,” he said.
He said his administration is working on a seven-year road plan.
“We’re doing a seven-year plan, and the way we’re looking at it is if we can get into each district each year and we can asphalt five, six, seven hollers in each district each year,” Williams said. “Let’s say we get six hollers. In seven years, we’ve got 42 hollers. We’ve got that district done, and then we circle back around.”
He said officials are working on long-term fixes for county roads.
“We’re not patching, making people happy today,” he said. “We want to fix them so that they’re going to last.”
He reported that this is not a written plan. It has not be discussed or approved by the fiscal court.
The fiscal court also approved allowing Kimbler to compile a list of old equipment to sell as surplus, allowing Williams to declare those items as surplus and allowing Williams to seek bids and sell them to the highest bidder. The resolution also gave Williams the authority to use the funds to buy two new excavators for District 1 and District 2. It reports that Williams spoke with Caterpillar about buying two excavators for $152,000, and says that amount is the “state bid price” so the county doesn’t have to seek bids for the purchase.