By Evan CardenSA Editor
Washington County Probate Judge John H. Armstrong, who also serves as chairman of the county commission, was not too distraught about the resounding “no” vote from voters concerning a proposed 2-cents per gallon gasoline tax and a 1/4-cent sales and use tax.
The referendum, which appeared on the Nov. 2 ballot failed with 5,238 no votes to 1,487 in favor of it.
“The voters have spoken and told us that they don’t want anymore taxes,” said Armstrong late last week. “So we will explore other avenues in getting bridges replaced and roads resurfaced.”
Armstrong said there is currently no extra money available from the state or federal governments to fix several bridges located on county roads that serve as main arteries for motorists. “The half million dollars in funding we receive each year from the federal government allows for only one project,” he added.
That one project for the 2004 fiscal year funding has already been let, according to Armstrong. “We’ve committed to replacing the Bates Creek Bridge utilizing 2004 federal aid money,” he said. “But, we will put our best foot forward in dealing with the other bridges that need replacing.”
The replacement of the Bates Creek bridge will cost approximately $700,000, which is $200,000 more than the $500,000 received from the federal government.
“We have also pledged to resurface County Road 4,” said Armstrong. “That road is in bad need of repair and we had already planned for it.”
Another bridge that is in need of replacement is the one over Pine Barren Creek near Bigbee, located on County Road 34. The road is a major cutoff for those traveling between Millry and Jackson. Currently there is a temporary one-lane bypass around the bridge, which becomes useless when large amounts of rain occur.
Such weather conditions force motorists to travel through Chatom instead. The temporary bypass is not usable by large trucks, so they have to use the Chatom route.
Another problem facing the county is the needed bridge replacement over an estuary of the Escatawba River on the Milstead community connection road near Yellow Pine. Armstrong said the bridge was deemed unsafe and had to be closed, blocking the road to traffic. “County Engineer Bob Gunter and the commissioners are working hard to resolve these and other issues,” added Armstrong.