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Road crews busy repairing potholes

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By Leslie Moore

 

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County road foreman Brian Smothers said there are two guarantees to working for a road department.

"Someone is going to steal the road signs and there's always going to be a pothole that needs filling," Smothers said.

After using more than 600 tons of salt this winter to melt snow and ice on county roads, Smothers said several potholes have popped up and the problem will get worse.

Although salt used on the roads is comparable to table salt, Campbellsville Street Department Supervisor Holland Milby said it's very corrosive and even rusts the salt trucks over time. When snow and ice melt, saltwater seeps through cracks in the blacktop. When the water refreezes, it expands, causing a pothole to form.

Milby, who has worked for the street department for 21 years, said the department has used about 150 tons of salt this winter, which is more than they used in the three previous winters combined. Therefore, he predicts that this year will be one of the worst for potholes that he can remember.

Taylor County Judge/Executive Eddie Rogers said potholes often start out as a just small pinhole. But through the accumulation of moisture and traffic driving over the spot, it doesn't take long for the hole to spread and form a pothole.

Chris Jessie, public relations officer for the Kentucky Department of Transportation, said pothole problems typically show up on roads that haven't been resurfaced in a while. He said the department works closely with county officials to determine which roads are resurfaced each year.

Springs and underground wells can also cause asphalt problems that lead to potholes. Campbellsville Mayor Tony Young said there are a number of locations in the city that have springs and underwater wells.

"Over time, it comes up and makes a little hole right in the middle of the road," Young said. "What we're trying to do is dig them out, put in a little ditch with gravel and then blacktop over that."

Young said this method allows the spring to flow to the side of the road instead of in the middle.

Milby said he doesn't know of any way to prevent potholes, and the only solution is to fill them.

The street department uses a hot coal mix prepared on site to fill potholes. Once the mixture is placed in the hole, Milby said the department will drive over it with a truck to pack it.

While the city fills potholes year round, Milby said the coal mix is sensitive to ground temperatures and moisture. When conditions are freezing or wet, the mixture won't set correctly.

"When they're full of water and all that, you can't do nothing with them," Milby said.

Milby said the mixture is also expensive, so the department won't waste it by trying to fill potholes in unfavorable conditions. A load of mixture that came in last week cost about $1,700. And it doesn't last long.

"It'll be gone this week," Milby said.

To fill potholes on county roads, Smothers said the department uses a Total Patcher machine. While this method is more expensive, Smothers said the machine allows for pothole repair in almost any weather condition. He said this method is much easier and faster, and is a more long-term fix than standard coal mix.

"Once you put it down in there, it stays," Smothers said. "It's a permanent fix, and that's what we like about it."

As for budgeting for road repairs, Rogers said it's a guessing game.

"We just put so much in the road department for maintenance and whether it will go over or go under, you won't know," Rogers said. He said magistrates submit a road report at each month's fiscal court meeting that includes pothole repairs as well as installation of road signs. If a pothole is in a high-traffic area or requires immediate attention, Rogers said it can be filled before the meetings.

He said the quickest way to have a pothole filled is for residents to contact their magistrate.

"Their magistrate is who they really need to call, because if it's in their area, that magistrate will know exactly where they're pinpointing," Rogers said.

After receiving several phone calls and emails regarding road conditions during the last winter storm, Rogers said a lot of residents don't know the difference between a county road and a state road.

"It's like Ivory Snow - 99 and 44/100ths percent of the time, anything with a yellow line is a state road," Rogers said.

He said the county road department would be breaking the law if they made repairs on a state road. Still, Rogers said, he always makes sure to forward requests and concerns from residents to the state department.

Young said some city streets have also received damaged from the necessary replacement of old water lines. He said he is working with contractors and asked that they use concrete in the winter.

"We can put concrete down in the winter if it's at a certain temperature where there's no way we can put blacktop down," Young said.

He said they have learned concrete makes a much smoother surface and it doesn't settle as much as blacktop.

Young said city employees are working very hard to maintain Campbellsville's roads. He said in doing this, the city has spent a lot of money on blacktopping in recent years.

"We've spent well over $100,000 just in blacktopping and repairing streets, and that's a pretty good portion of our budget," Young said. "We're trying to catch up, we're trying very hard to get our roads back in good shape."

To report a pothole on a city street, call City Hall at (270) 465-7011.

To report a pothole on a county road, call the district's magistrate or the Taylor County Courthouse at (270) 465-7729.

To report a pothole on a state road, visit www.transportation.ky.gov.