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Bridge detour problem for some residents

By By MARY-ALLISON LANCASTER – Managing editor
The Big Juniper Creek Bridge replacement project is already causing headaches for some residents living out on Appleton Road, and the project hasn't even begun yet.
In preparation for the new bridge, workers have been replacing utilities lines and once the project for the bridge begins, residents living out that way will have to detour into town.
Oland Gibson, a resident who lives about 5.2 miles along Appleton Road, doesn't think it's fair. Due to the situation, he and his wife will have to travel more miles than they would like into town.
Gibson said he clocked his mileage on Friday driving the detour route. From Pearl's Seafood, where his wife works, to his home, it is typically 7.5 miles. Adding in the detour, he said that it's going to be 15.4 miles.
On an average day, he said he travels into town at least four to five times a day because he takes care of one set of grandchildren three times a week and another set two times a week. He said that with the detour, he will be driving approximately 60 to 100 miles a day.
Gibson said that he and about a hundred or more residents who live out that way will be affected and would like the county to build a temporary bridge while the work is being done, but County Engineer Bill Bridges said that's not going to happen.
One of the reasons, Bridges said, was that the county only receives a certain amount of funding.
Another $100,000 is going to be shelled out for the utility work and approach work. The overall cost amounts to $600,000.
Gibson said that Bridges called him Thursday afternoon and told him that it would be "a liability to the county to build a temporary bridge and there is nothing the county can do about it."
However, Bridges said there's more to just slapping up a temporary bridge.
Bridges even attempted to call ALDOT to make a request to borrow one of their temporary panel bridges, but none were available and he said there would have been significant costs had one been available. Costs would include transporting a bridge to the site, installing the bridge and approach work.
The state granted the bridge project to Newell &Bush, Inc. a company based out of Mt. Miegs, Ala. and issued a notice to proceed with the project dated Aug. 31. According to Bridges, Newell &Bush, Inc. have 90 days from the date of the letter to begin work, but have an option to begin work prior to the 90 days.
Bridges said that the company agreed to notify the county one-week prior to the beginning of the work.
From that point on, they have 100 calendar days to complete the project. Bridges said he doesn't expect it to take that long, possibly two months to complete the project, weather permitting.
Gibson said that Bridges told him the project would be done at the end of October.
According to Bridges, the detour will entail as follows:
Residents north of the bridge will need to detour by going east on Mason Mill Pond Road over to Hwy. 31,which proceeds into Brewton. Bridges said that the detour will be about 3.5 miles for most residents. However, those residents living directly near the bridge will have a detour from 3.5 miles to 9.5 miles, with only one resident having the maximum 9.5 mile detour. Local residents also have the option to use Petty Road and McGougin Road as a detour.
"I understand their griping and it would be hassle to me too, but when we only get a limited amount of funding we just can't do it," Bridges said. "People complain about the bridge and want something done about it and then they complain when the bridge is out – you can't please everyone."
Gibson said that with this continuing, he will not stay quiet and might even get affected residents to sign a petition.