Gravel Pits

Published 12:00 am Friday, February 25, 2011

Load limits dropped for pits

By Billy Davis

Panola County Supervisor Kelly Morris cast the lone “nay” vote Tuesday when the Board of Supervisors voted to allow unlimited gravel loads from three tracts in the Eureka community.

Morris represents District 4, which includes Eureka.

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The 4-1 decision overruled a January decision by the Panola County Land Commission that set a 10-load daily limit at each property.

The overturned directive represented a victory for landowners after they appealed the restricted load limit to the Board of Supervisors.

Property owners Lamar Johnson, Rita Willingham, and Clay Baker were present for the board vote.

The board vote also represented a setback for some Eureka residents who have said the load limit represented a compromise with the landowners. Those opponents were not present for the vote.

During a two-minute discussion of the load restrictions, Supervisor Bubba Waldrup compared the load limitations to MMC, the concrete plant in north Batesville.

“You cannot regulate that stuff,” he said. “It just doesn’t sit well with me.”

“I feel the same,” said Supervisor James Birge, who then made a board motion for “unlimited loads.” Waldrup seconded the motion.

With the load limit overruled, the county board then turned to protecting Eureka Road and nearby Good Hope Road from heavy truckloads.

Eureka Road connects Highway 51, at the old National Guard armory, to Pope-Water Valley Road, near Highway 315 at the Lafayette County line.  

Supervisors asked board attorney Bill McKenzie to research how the county can demand $800,000 in road bonds from the three landowners.

That topic set off a debate over requiring the bonds, with Johnson and later Baker asking why other companies do not fall under the county’s zoning rules.  

“Have you ever heard of grandfathered?” Thompson asked Baker.

“No, I’m not that old,” Baker joked in reply.

“If you want unlimited loads, this is what you have to do,” Thompson told the landowner.   

County Engineer Larry Britt said only an improved portion of Eureka Road, from the gravel pits to Highway 51, can handle heavy gravel trucks.

The county engineer ruled out two other haul routes: Good Hope Road and the unimproved eastern portion of Eureka from Goodhope Rd. to Pope-Water Valley Rd.

Britt went on to report that Good Hope can handle some additional truck traffic but ruled out more trucks on the southern portion of Eureka. Pope-Water Valley cannot handle heavy trucks either, he said.

Discussion of truck routes took a detour when McKenzie surprised the board with a county ordinance that allows trucks to travel on so-called State Aid roads if their weight limit is no more than 57,650 pounds.

Both Eureka and Good Hope roads are State Aid roads, meaning state funds are expended for their maintenance and upkeep.

The hauling ordinance, from 1990, requires special permits, written hauling routes, and road bonds — but only if trucks travel with a larger load, McKenzie further explained.

Supervisors sat in silence for a minute as they read copies of the ordinance. The board then voted 5-0 to abide by the weight limit stated in the ordinance.

After the meeting, Thompson said he believed the hauling ordinance allows truck traffic on Good Hope Road but not the southern portion of Eureka.