Bridge closing affecting residents

By BRENT MAZE,

One bridge has reopened while another remains closed after Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant declared a state of emergency and ordered 87 bridges closed last week across the state.

Two of those bridges were in Newton County. The one on Liberty Church Road in Newton has reopened while the other on Buckley Road in Hickory remains closed.

County Supervisor Charles Godwin said his bridge on Liberty Church Road had just been repaired last week when the governor ordered it closed.

“The only reason why it’s closed is because they haven’t reinspected it after we repaired it,” Godwin said on Friday. “It’s causing an inconvenience to the residents that live in that area.”

Late Monday afternoon, Godwin announced that the bridge has been inspected and was approved to be reopened.

However, residents on Buckley Road in Hickory are much less fortunate. Eric Johannsen, a resident who lives within a mile of the bridge, said his drive time from the Hickory Fire Department to his home normally takes five minutes, but it’s now nearly 12 minutes for his “Plan B” route.

After Saturday’s rains flooded Plan B, Johannsen said his drive home is now close to 25 to 30 minutes and could force him to drive into Jasper County just to come back to his home in Hickory.

“Plan B is a minor inconvenience, but those extra five minutes could make a difference when the fire department is responding to a house fire or when you’re having a heart attack,” Johannsen said. “That could be the difference between life and death.

“And then when you have the flooding like we had this weekend, it’s even worse. Now it takes over 25 minutes just to get from my house into the main part of Hickory.”

From what Johannsen has been told, it wouldn’t take Newton County but a few days to go in and do the repairs, but they will have to wait until the floodwaters recede to begin the repairs.

“I know we don’t have it as bad as other counties, but it’s still a very serious issue,” Johannsen said. “I know it’s not my supervisor’s fault, but those that made the decision need to understand the negative and safety impacts that can affect the communities that can or may be bigger in some cases than the bridge safety concerns themselves.”

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