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Concerned citizens address Crenshaw County Commission

More than 35 concerned citizens packed the Crenshaw County Commission’s courtroom Monday night to air their grievances about the county’s dirt road conditions.

A large number of those people came from Mulberry Road and surrounding areas.

“We’re looking for some help quick,” said the Rev. Roshell McMillion of Mulberry Missionary Baptist Church.

Members of that community also drafted a letter to commissioner Ronnie Blackmon, county engineer Benji Sanders, Senator Wendell Mitchell and Congressman Bobby Bright addressing problems caused by road conditions such as health issues and delayed 911 response.

The letter also requested that the road be paved as soon as possible.

“We as a community are willing to do whatever it takes to get this project started,” it said.

The Mulberry community’s concerns were echoed by other citizens from around the county.

County engineer Benji Sanders explained to the group what his department is looking for when they prioritize road repairs.

“My priorities are school busses and emergency vehicles,” Sanders said. “We’ve got 34 roads barricaded right now, and we want to make sure that everyone has one way out.”

The commission also told the citizens that funding is an issue, and reserve funds will probably have to be dipped into.

Sanders went more in-depth during his formal report during the meeting.

From Dec. 21, 2009 to Feb. 22, the highway department has had to purchase $96,699.24 worth of materials to begin road repairs, and Sanders told the commission that the entire budget was $80,000.

“In two months, we’ve spent more than what we budgeted for the year,” he said.

Of the 80 sites identified as emergency areas by FEMA, 21 have been officially visited and looked at.

There are 34 roads that are at least partially closed, and deputies reported that there have been several instances of people driving around barricades.

That offense carries a $500 fine and the possibility of arrest.

Overall, Sanders said it will take time before the necessary FEMA paperwork is completed and the county can look for more funding for road repairs.

“I wish I had some silver lining, but I’m having trouble finding one with our situation as it is,” he said.

In other business, the commission heard from EMA director Jessica Tomlin-Seabrooks about shelters around the county and the preparation of polling places for the upcoming election.

There was also a formal resolution passed to make the Crenshaw County Health Department the Crenshaw County Courthouse Annex.

That annexation opens the door for the sheriff’s department’s move, which is set for the end of March.

The commission also looked at several possible improvements to the courthouse, including double-pane windows, roof work and new lighting in some areas, but no action was taken.