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Residents upset about ODOT project

Access road sought instead of detour

It was standing room only at Lawrence County Commission at its regular Thursday meeting, as residents around County Road 4 were concerned about an upcoming bridge replacement project.

A state program from the Ohio Department of Transportation that would totally fund replacing three bridges would shut down County Road 4 for approximately 60 days. The other bridges are on County Road 6 and County Road 13.

The proposed ODOT detour would take residents of that area approximately 21 miles out of their way over what residents at the meeting termed rural roads.

Their concerns were the inconvenience and the safety factor getting first responders to the scene.

At this past Thursday’s meeting Vaughn Wilson, deputy director for ODOT District 9, told the commission that to keep one lane open would double the cost of the project. Postponing the project could mean funds would go to other projects in the state.

Lawrence County Engineer Patrick Leighty suggested the county build an access road at its own costs.

Wilson replied that he would have to check with ODOT’s legal department.

County commission president Les Boggs said he has yet to hear from Wilson and asked that an email be sent to him following the meeting.

When asked why the county couldn’t overrule ODOT’s plans, Boggs said, “This is ODOT. That is a whole different entity. But you are preaching to the choir.”

Belinda Brown, president of AFSCME Local 3319 that represents employees of the department of job and family services, questioned how a recently passed retirement buyout for county employees would be funded. She also asked why her union was not eligible, but two others AFSCME unions — Local 890-4 and Local 890-1 were.

The plan will buy out up to three years of the county’s portion of an employees retirement.

Commissioner Bill Pratt said the money would come from next year’s general fund budget and that the two locals in question are under the exclusive jurisdiction of the commission. Employees at the DJFS are under the authority of both the commission and the DJFS director.

While current director Terry Porter said he has not handled buyouts past directors have for the DJFS employees and those buyouts were for five years.

In other action the commission:

• Approved a bid from Jimmie Davis All American to replace the air conditioning unit and coil at the jail for $7,486;

• Referred request to vacate Old Township Road to the county engineer and Union Township Trustees;

• Approved the retirement of Carol Pennington, investigator with the DJFS;

• Met in executive session with Gary Criswell, administrator of the Union-Rome Sewer District over personnel;

• Met in executive session with Porter over personnel;

• Met in executive session with attorney Randall Lambert over pending litigation.