Residents push for better roads in Hawkins County

Investigations

HAWKINS COUNTY, Tenn. (WATE) — There’s a push in Hawkins County for better roads.

A group of residents in the northeast Tennessee county complains that some of their county roads are dangerous. Over the weekend, there was a community meeting where people voiced their concerns over poor maintenance and big potholes that are left unrepaired in parts of Hawkins County.

WATE 6 On Your Side’s Don Dare attended that meeting and traveled on some of the roads near Clinch Mountain that are in bad shape.

“You have to dodge the potholes you have to look for other people coming,” Susan Roffol, Hawkins County resident, said.

Along Black Sheep Hollow, a mile-long county road that was once fully paved, there’s still a weight limit sign on it for heavy vehicles. Local resident Todd Sanders took Dare on a walk.

“The road is overgrown. It used to be paved but over time, the pavement has just crumbled,” Sanders said. The paved road likely deteriorated years ago. It no longer connects with Sweet Creek Road today.

“Right here this is a cable I had to put across the road to keep people from driving in here and getting stuck. They drive back in there. There is nowhere to turn around,” Sanders said. “This used to be a paved road, I used to drive and see my friends on the other side of the hollow. Now I have to five miles all the way around.”

Jamie Byrd a grandmother is worried about school children. She says many roads in her community are in desperate need of repair.

“We have holes in this road that are over seven inches deep. Our children are traveling these roads, they are very dangerous. I would like some new safe roads for us to travel on, simple. The same the other taxpayers get below the mountain,” Jamie Byrd, Hawkins County resident, said.

The county did lay some loose rock leading to Susan Roffol’s home. The weather, however, washed most of the gravel away.

“It just doesn’t stay. It’s like putting a Band-aid on a big gaping wound,” Roffol said.

Hawkins County Road Superintendent Lowell Bean says there’s little money in the budget to make repairs.

“We’re aware of these roads that people call on. We are working toward those roads and maybe we’ll get them eventually if we don’t run out of money. And I know they’re not going to like that, but that’s the way it is,” Lowell Bean, Hawkins County road superintendent, said.

“We pay taxes out here. We’re not asking for a lot, just a manageable road,” Sanders said.

Through a public records request, Jamie Byrd and Susan Roffol obtained 24 months of county road documents that shows a great deal of money cutting grass. “What we are seeing over and over is mowing on the right of ways,” Byrd said. “We are seeing very little maintenance or repairs on the roads that were damaged by the weather in the last two years.”

At the Clinch Valley Volunteer Fire Department last Saturday, people crowded into the community room to express their anxiety over the road conditions.

Kristie Wilson worried about the safety of children on school buses traveling the uneven roads. “I’d like to see them widened and paved. That’s it, nothing special. Maybe a line to show the middle,” April Neiss said. People who live along these roads hope their concerns are heard.

“We deserve safe roads that we cannot provide for ourselves,” Byrd said. “That is what we are asking for.”

Road superintendent Lowell Bean tells Dare that his department is working on sealing and paving roads in Hawkins County; in fact, on Wednesday, his crews started repairing Green Road, which is not far from the volunteer fire department.

Lowell Bean said he is urging residents on the north side of Clinch Mountain to be patient. We’ll continue following the progress.

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