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Locals attempt to bridge gap for repairs

NATCHEZ — Two property owners in the area affected by the closure of the Sandy Creek bridge offered to front the county money and labor to get the structure open for some traffic once again.

Billy Aguillard and John Rosso, who along with Sen. Melanie Sojourner met with the Adams County Board of Supervisors Friday, made the offer.

The basis for the offer was timeliness.

Sojourner told the supervisors she had been able to find state funds that could be used in the temporary repair of the bridge, but with state funds come state red tape, she said.

That includes the acquisition of right-of-ways, environmental studies and design approvals.

“The hangup, the part that has been so frustrating to me, is now that the money has to come through the state is there are a whole lot of hoops we have to jump through,” Sojourner said.

However, if the county does the repair work itself, it can bypass many of those steps and begin right away, she said.

That’s where Rosso and Aguillard come in. Rosso offered to loan the money in the immediate future, while Aguillard — a licensed contractor — offered the labor to repair the bridge if the county provides the material.

The bridge was closed on the order of a state aid road inspector, and County Engineer Jim Marlow said the bridge will have to be inspected by state aid before it can be reopened.

During the meeting, Sojourner stepped out and made a phone call, and she said officials at the state aid office told her they could send an inspector down while the repairs to the bridge were being made to ensure that it would ultimately pass inspection.

Board Attorney Scott Slover said the county couldn’t accept the offer Friday because he wasn’t sure the state’s lending guidelines for counties would allow it. Chancery Clerk Tommy O’Beirne said he would check with the state auditor’s office to see if it would even be possible.

“If you can do that in the next day or two, the offer is on the table with the only string attached being that you start on that work in the next day or two so we can get that (bridge) open in a matter of weeks,” Rosso said.

Any fix that either the state or the locals could make on the bridge would only be temporary, Sojourner said.

In the long-term, the senator said she expects the U.S. Forest Service to take over the bridge and replace it.

In the short term, the board authorized Marlow to start the engineering and paperwork process toward getting state funding.

The Sandy Creek bridge serves as the main entrance point from Adams County into the Homochitto National Forest. Eight property owners feel the impact of the bridge closure full-time, as well as approximately 150 people with hunting camps, Aguillard said.

Because the closure of the bridge cuts off access to trash bins for those on the forest side of the river, the supervisors have arranged for Waste Management to place a bin at the county barn on Liberty Road.