By Errol Castens/NEMS Daily Journal
OXFORD – Lafayette County supervisors voted by a 3-2 margin to support the county’s road manager’s decision to enforce a 10-mile detour for log trucks in the southeast quadrant of the county.
Landowners say the detour around two bridges on County Road 432 means extra cost in time and money as they try to salvage timber from storms that have already cost them most of the value of their timber.
Road Manager Jerry Haynie had originally allowed trucks to haul logs across the bridges, but later rescinded that permission after District 4 Supervisor Ray Sockwell Jr. protested it was unsafe. The bridges are rated for three-axle loads of 16,000 and 17,000 pounds respectively, but the log trucks may distribute 84,000- to 95,000-pound loads across five axles.
Rick Mize represented himself and several other landowners in making his complaints.
“There’s no question that safety is important,” he acknowledged before reminding supervisors that farm trucks, utility trucks and even county-owned garbage trucks and road maintenance trucks pass over bridges every day with loads that already surpass the stated ratings.
Jim Russell, a civil engineer and past president of the Lafayette County Forestry Association, said everyday use by such vehicles likely inflicts more wear on bridges than the heavier logging vehicles, which may not be absent from a given road for many years between harvests.
Board attorney David O’Donnell said the county does have the right to route heavy trucks onto those routes where the least damage is expected.
District 1 Supervisor Mike Pickens and District 3 Supervisor Robert Blackmon voted against the detour enforcement. Pickens said that timber hauling had been allowed on County Road 432 as long as he could remember and that to restrict it during the current emergency harvests is “to put our foot on people’s necks.”
Mize has one property that has no real options in light of the supervisors’ decision, as it sits between the two bridges in question. He emphasized that providing roads that can support log trucks will be an ongoing – and growing – responsibility for county officials.
“Places that were pastures are now pine forest, and places that were cultivated are now pine forest,” he said. “Timber has a more than $25.5 million annual economic impact in Lafayette County. What we’re asking for is adequate passage for our timber.”
Board President Lloyd Oliphant said there are no easy answers.
“We’re not trying to be punitive by any stretch,” he said. “We understand the economics of logging, but we also understand what it’s doing to our roads.”