ROGERSVILLE — Hawkins County Highway Department employees worked all day Sunday salting and scraping back roads, and although they couldn’t hit all 850 miles of county road, as of quitting time Sunday evening there weren’t any closed roads in the county.
But, the cost of maintaining roads during the past month of inclement weather is beginning to add up to the tune of nearly $100,000 — more than double what the highway department pays for weather-related additional costs in an average year.
Hawkins County Highway Superintendent Lowell Bean said that in an average year he will mount up $40,000 to $50,000 in overtime and other expenses due to weather cleanup.
This year it all piled up on the county at once, Bean added.
“The month of January we had well over 500 hours (of overtime) and the month of February isn’t starting much better,” Bean said. “We’re getting up near $100,000, and that includes everything — overtimes, supplies, cleanup on fallen trees. We’re used to spending $40,000 to $50,000 for an entire year, so this has been a very costly few weeks we’ve had.”
The flooding which was followed by ice and snow storms the week of Jan. 14-18 hit the highway department hardest.
Bean added, “We had 60-something roads blocked with trees in one night alone, and that’s a high number when you consider anywhere from one to 20-plus trees per road. We opened them up and now we’ve got brush piled up beside the roads that will take another good month to gather up. We were working on all the flooding and we went from fixing washouts to plowing snow to cutting trees out of the roads all in one day.”
As of Sunday evening, all county roads were open.
Old Route 70 adjacent to the Holston River and the Norfolk Southern Railroad in Persia is still down to one lane as a result of flooding last month that collapsed a drain tile.
Choptack Road west of Rogersville, which is already narrow, was also down to one lane due to the shoulder sliding off the hillside.
“We’ve got all the main roads and the biggest part of the back roads,” Bean said Sunday evening. “We ran late last night with some of the trucks, and we’ve been running hard since 4 a.m. this morning. When you blade and salt it, and then turn around and can barely tell you’ve been there, you’re really wasting your time.
“The best thing to do is let it snow, and then hit it when the snow tapers off, and that’s what we’ve done today. Today we’ve got them in pretty good shape.”