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Chambers County thanks workers for efforts during winter storm

LaFAYETTE — Chambers County commissioners on Monday commended the county’s highway department workers, 911/EMA staff and law enforcement officers for going beyond the call of duty in last week’s winter storm.

“I want to thank County Engineer Josh Harvill and his crew and the sheriff’s office, too, for the work they did,” said Commission Chairman Charlie Williams. “They kept us informed, especially when it came to the closings of roads and bridges.”

Harvill singled out six men in the highway department — Mike Meadows, Sam Copeland, John Holderfield, Joel Welch, Steve Barber and Marvin Benefield — for the exceptional work they performed under difficult circumstances.

“They were our emergency responders during the winter weather last week,” Harvill said. “They applied over 125 tons of sand to the most-traveled roads in the county. They did this during the morning hours on Wednesday, all day on Thursday and in the morning hours on Friday and Saturday.”

Harvill added that the Chambers County EMA did good work in disseminating information about road closures to print, radio and social media.

“We issued a travel advisory at 12:45 a.m. on Wednesday and extended it to Friday morning,” Harvill said. “The snow was some two inches thick on the roads, and when cars get on it, that snow turns to ice. You can’t just scrape the snow off roads.”

EMA Director Donnie Smith told the commissioners that the county 911 center receives between 20 and 25 reports of traffic accidents in a typical month.

“We had 187 motor vehicle incidents in two and a half days last week,” he said. “We had a grand total of 1,233 calls.”

Most people called in for information about building and road closures.

Smith said there were 55 accidents on Wednesday, 48 on Thursday and eight on Friday.

“In 48 hours, there were 148 motor vehicle accidents [an accident involves a collision] and 72 incidents where people were seeking help after sliding off the road,” he said. “It’s a fact of life in the South that we can’t have a million dollars’ worth of snow removal equipment sitting around rusting when we don’t need it.”

Harvill said he wanted to commend T.J. Wood of the sheriff’s office for the job he did last week. “The sheriff and his chief deputy were out of town last week when the storm hit and couldn’t get back,” he said. “T.J. Wood did a great job in their absence. He was a constant contact of communication and worked his tail off trying to keep people off Highway 50.”

In business at Monday’s session, the commissioners unanimously approved the purchase of a 2018 MAC 1050-C pneumatic trailer for the highway department. It costs just under $66,000 and will be of great benefit in patching roads. Harvill estimates the benefit of having it outweighs its cost by about two and a half times.

“I think it’s a no-brainer to do this,” he said. “Unless our tax situation changes, and I don’t see that any time soon, we’ll have to do more patching.”

The commissioners also directed Harvill to get bids on striping work that needs to be done on county roads this year.