Residents living along the graveled section of Liberty Hill Road may enjoy a smoother ride in the near future.
Liberty Hill Road is paved from Highway 62/412 in Highland to Game Reserve Road. It is also paved from Rolling Hills Road to the intersection of Highway 354. A 9/10-mile section of road between Game Reserve and Rolling Hills roads remains gravel.
The Sharp County Road Committee met Feb. 2 and decided to pave the section of unpaved road with a double coat of chip and seal.
"If you want to double chip and seal it and widen it as much as possible and clear out the ditches, it seems like a winner to me," JP Bartus Allen said.
The project is estimated to cost $27,000 to pave the road as it is, County Road Superintendent Dan Melbourne said. That cost does not include widening the road.
Former JP and Liberty Hill landowner Wayne Long said that the county had recently put up stakes on property in the area for widening the road. He said that no property owners have been asked for rights of way along the road.
"For the last 34 years not one of the Longs have ever been asked by a county judge for a right of way to pave that road," Long said. "Everyone's been told we won't do anything, but no one asked us to do anything."
A petition was circulated last year by J.R. Murphy, another resident of Liberty Hill. Long said that petition had three pages of signatures asking the court to chip and seal the road the way it is and not to get any right of way
"It is not a county road," JP Dennis Burton said. "It is a public road and the county maintains it."
Melbourne said if the residents want to pave the road the way it currently stands, it would be narrow in some places. County Road Committee chairman and JP Buell Wilkes said it would not require the removal of several large trees along the road.
"I went out today (Monday) and drove that road," Wilkes said. "There's trees on both sides of the road that are probably 100 years old. I don't see any problem to chip and seal that road the way it is."
Long said chip and seal is probably more feasible than having the road asphalted by the highway department.
Melbourne said the county pays about $8,000 per mile for a single layer of chip and seal based on last year's prices. It costs $50,000 for two inches of hot mix per mile from the state.
State officials have evaluated the road and said that it would cost approximately $250,000 to asphalt the road. That figure does not include money for a right of way or the timber on neighboring land, Long said. It is estimated to cost another $80,000 to $100,000 to move the fiber optic cables along the road, Long said.
"We're looking at spending $27,000 the way it is or $350,000 the other way," Long said.
Melbourne said the state could provide 90 percent of the cost of the project if the state completed the work, leaving the county to pay for the remaining 10 percent.
Conrad Long lives along the portion of road that is to be paved. He said that the state paved the road from Rolling Hills Road to Highway 354. He said that area was the most recent area to be paved on the road and it has the most problems.
"Where the seal is going out, the worst isn't where the county done it," Conrad Long said. "It's where the state done it."
The road is failing for a number of reasons, Melbourne said.
"We tried to set up some base rock," Melbourne said. "We did our best to get that road hard enough to get the chip and seal set up, and we didn't do a good enough job."
Melbourne said the road was not designed for the amount of traffic it handles each day. There is a problem with large trucks, often overweight, using roads such as Liberty Hill, he said.
"There's something we need to do about it," Melbourne said. "They're all overweight and that's the reason they take all these roads."
Melbourne said a lot of counties are trying to implement plans to save their roads.
"These roads that were built 10 to 20 years ago were not meant for the weight and the traffic," he said.
JP Marcus Goings suggested that the county seek the opinion of an engineer before the project begins.
"I'll agree that the road with chip and seal (near Highway 354) is not holding up," Goings said. "You get a good road through there, there's going to be a lot more traffic. If we're going to spend the money we need to do it right," Goings said.
Melbourne is to have estimates by the Feb. 17 quorum court meeting.
"I came in here tonight thinking we had a major problem," JP Bartus Allen said. "I see tonight there is no problem."
Allen said he wants the county judge to contact the landowners from now on when private property is involved to avoid the need for such meetings.