FERRIER FILES: Pickett Co. neighbors fed up with abysmal roads, blame highway department

(Fox 17 News)

Pickett County is true rural Middle Tennessee, but despite a lack of big city traffic, neighbors say the county is laden with road problems.

It's hard to believe there are still gravel county roads like Dale Hollow Estates Road in Tennessee. While it is a gorgeous place to live overlooking the water, it is a difficult place to navigate.

Over in the Big Sky subdivision, neighbors have more of the same problems; ruts, potholes, culverts degraded and full of gravel.

“We just have terrible roads," Loraine Stubblefield said. "We see culverts plugged. We are constantly dealing with gravel being washed away by rain. We even got out with shovels and hoes ourselves to get it cleared so we can avoid the potholes, and I think as you saw yourself coming in there are no guardrails and a 200 foot drop to the river."

So what is the solution? The residents say they need tar and chip roads. This is a surface in between a traditional asphalt road and a straight gravel road, but more stable and it doesn't wash away in the rain.

The 50 people in these two subdivisions want better roads, and they blame Highway Superintendent Jimmy Cope for not building them.

”We're just trying to get our roads fixed, and he's saying there isn't the money," Tony Breece said. "We say the money is there, he's just chosen not to use it properly."

These residents say Cope spends way too much money on employees.

Fox 17 News decided to conduct a simple survey of adjacent counties:

  • Scott County has 22,000 residents and 18 highway employees
  • Fentress County has 18,000 residents and 20 employees
  • Clay County has 8,000 residents and 15 employees
  • Pickett County has 5,000 residents and 41 employees

That adds up to a highway worker for every 121 residents in Pickett County.

Fox 17 News Reporter Dennis Ferrier asked highway Superintendent Jimmy Cope for an interview. He said he would have to talk to his lawyer first. He never called back.

Cope was criticized by the state comptroller in 2015 for providing county gravel to private citizens at a cost of $13,205 dollars a year.

Now the gravel Cope puts on these county roads is controversial because neighbors say it’s like throwing money away every time it rains.

”We've got to run a budget of $1.5 million a year, and I see no reason why Pickett County should be on gravel roads," Jeff Neal said. "It's 2018, and it's time for gravel to be over with."

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