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Friday, July 30, 2010

Bethlehem AME Church Group Blasts Commissioner Willie Spires

“Commissioner Spires I have always respected you, but I have to say that in our opinion, you have failed in your job of properly representing the interest of our community.” Those were the words spoken by Reverend Hodges of the Bethlehem AME Church, as he addressed the commission. Pastor Hodges was representing a large crowd of citizens of that community who had come to appeal for reconsideration of paving of Lovewood Road, which serves that area.

Hodges began his presentation by bringing forth a petition which had been signed by over one hundred citizens. The large crowd of supporters all stood in support as Hodges addressed the Commission. At one point he directly asked Commissioner Branch why they had not included their road on the paving list. Branch immediately passed the buck to Commissioner Spires for a reply.

Spires spoke briefly on the fact that all roads could not be paved with the available funds, and that a process had been established to determine the list. Then Spires deftly passed the buck to County Engineer, Larry Alvarez, by asking him to explain the road selection process. Alvarez explained that it cost around $300,000 per mile to pave a dirt road, and that choices were determined by the length of the road, the amount of traffic, and the number of homes per mile which would be served. Since Lovewood Road is four miles long, it would cost over $1,000,000 to pave the road. This would be some 10% of all of the monies which are available for the entire county.

Hodges also complained about the level of maintenance on the road. Spires stated that the graders from Roads and Bridges were working there regularly, as verified by a group of work orders he had in his possession. Hodges retorted that the grader crews just “rode up and down the road”, and at times set for hours doing nothing.

At one point the Bethlehem Church group brought out one of their biggest weapons in their quest to sway the Commission. They had 103 year old, lifelong community resident “Sangy” White address the Commission. The aging, yet articulate, senior said that their community had been getting promises from the County Government for most of her life, and nothing had ever been done. “It is my hope to see this road paved before I die,” she said. “I pray to God every day, and often my prayers include asking for the Lovewood Road to be paved.”

The Commission finally agreed to consider working on obtaining easements and working to prepare the right of way which would be required to accomplish future paving. They stated that these steps would make it easier to justify the paving out of funds in the future. The group left the meeting without accomplishing their goal of getting the road on the current paving list…but perhaps progress was made.

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