Residents of the Pike County community of Clevinger Branch took matters into their own hands and blocked the road to stop coal trucks they say are responsible for destroying the road and damaging their property.
Kentucky State Police were called to the area afternoon of June 5 after a pickup truck was parked on the road, preventing coal trucks from running on the road. No one was arrested or cited in the incident.
Clevinger Branch resident
Scotty Gilliam said the coal trucks have damaged the road so badly that he has to dig broken asphalt up before he can get onto the road from his driveway.
“ There was a pickup truck blocking the road for a couple of hours,” Gillam said. “They stopped the coal trucks but let other people through.” He did not say who the pickup belonged to.
Assistant County Attorney John Doug Hays said he had spoken to coal company officials, but had not received an agreement outlining what the company would do to remedy the situation, which has been a topic of discussion in several meetings of the Pike County Fiscal Court.
The court agreed to take action to force the coal company to the table in order to work out an agreement. Hays said June 6 that some possible solutions include that the coal company furnish materials and county employees could do the repairs, or perhaps that the company could make periodic payments to repair and maintain the highway.
Hays said he has been working with magistrates and with Road Commissioner Frank Hatcher to reach a short-term solution. Gillam confirmed that a county backhoe was working on the road June 6.
Hays said he had spoken to residents of Clevinger Branch and explained that they could not block the road.
“ I told them ‘ I share your frustration,’” Hays said. “I think the residents who were at the court meeting got the impression that we could immediately take action, but these things take time.”
The court does have the authority to put a 12-ton weight limit on the road, which would prohibit coal trucks from driving on it, even without a load of coal. However, if the coal company was forced to use an alternate route, it would be cost prohibitive, Hays said.
“We don’t want to put 22 people (the number of employees at the mine) out of work,” Hays said. “If the coal company will work with us, we are going to try to work something out. We are working to get an estimate on the cost of repairs, and we want to discuss a proposal.”
Hays said the company has made an informal offer, but that it “was a minimum proposal that didn’t scratch the surface.”
Hays said he planned to meet with coal company officials this week to work toward an agreement. He said that while the Fiscal Court is cognizant of the importance of coal mining and severance tax dollars to the county, there is a responsibility toward those residents.
“We have leverage, and we are prepared to use it,” Hays said. “I think they (the coal company) is beginning to understand that.”