By Alton Mitchell
The small courtroom of the Chambers County Courthouse was filled with frustrated residents on Monday evening. The residents were the latest group of residents from the unincorporated area of Standing Rock to speak out against a speed limit increase along County Road 278. Residents took a different tone from previous meetings that suggested a death along the roadway is in the near future if something is not done about the speed limit on the roadway.
The first resident was a man identified as Mr. Price. The resident stated to county commissioners that he lives along County Road 278 and he was strongly opposed to the speed limit increase to 55 m.p.h. along the roadway from 45 m.p.h. previously. Mr. Price told commission members in May he spoke with Chambers County Sheriff Sid Lockhart about the speeding problems on the roadway.
In response to his conversation with Sheriff Lockhart Mr. Price states that Sheriff Lockhart dispatched a deputy to the Standing Rock area of 278. Price told commission members the deputy wrote more than 70 tickets for drivers with speeds in excess of 68 m.p.h. in less than a week. Price states that deputy had to call for backup. Price told commissioners that he understands the state of Alabama and Chambers County did a survey of the road, but he feels the road cannot handle the increase in speed. Prior to departing the podium Price told commission members, “someone is fixin’ to get killed”.
After Mr. Price spoke a resident by the name of Mrs. Sanders approached commission members with a list of ideas for improving travel along the roadway after she states she had almost witnessed accidents on the roadway. Sanders told commission members she would see additions to the road such as a digital counter to tell drivers their speed, a weekly swap out of sheriff’s deputies and state troopers, and a caution light on the roadway.
Resident Kelly Kramer came to commissioners with words of love. “All my neighbors are very precious people,” Kramer stated before telling commission members about the number of accidents he has already seen on the roadway. Kramer seemed to forecast tragic events that he see’s coming soon. “Don’t wait until something happens. It’s very risky and I don’t want to have to come back here under sadder circumstances,” Kramer explained.
The words of Kramer were followed up by resident James Price. Price has returned to the Standing Rock area about two years ago after a stint in the United States Coast Guard. Price told commissioners he has worked as a volunteer fire fighter in the area since he was 16-years-old and has seen his share of accidents. Price told commissioners there have been at least three to four accidents since he has been back and is worried about what may come in the future.
Resident Joe Wilder expressed concerns about his own operation of his vehicle on the roadway. Wilder explained about hazardous drivers on the roadway is dangerous for him because he operates heavy equipment on the road. Wilder told commission members it is harder for him to stop his vehicle quickly. “My concern is I can kill someone with my larger vehicle. People don’t take heavy equipment for what it is, and that is hard to stop. Heavy equipment is usually responsible for fatal accidents,” explained Price.
All of the residents who expressed their concerns to commissioner did so during an open forum to members of the public which occurs at the start of each commission meeting. Usually these forums are designed for residents to advice the commission of concern residents see, but commission members rarely take action on these at the time.
On Monday Commissioner Joe Blanks did advise members of the Standing Rock community that he would speak with Sheriff Lockhart and County Engineer Josh Harvill about the concerns with roadway and attempt to get a resolution for residents. In addition, a representative from the Chambers County Sheriff’s Office was present in the meeting on Saturday and commission members encouraged him to take the information back to Sheriff Lockhart.
Commissioner Charlie Williams whose district covers an area near Lanett also expressed his concerns to members of the Standing Rock community who were present. Williams explained about a similar situation that occurred in the area of Highway 50 previously. Williams told residents it took a major accident that resulted in the death of two people to get the speed limit on that roadway changed. He hopes this will not be the situation in this instance.
This was not the first-time residents from the Standing Rock community or County Road 278 have come to a County Commission meeting to express concerns about the speed limit increase and dangerous driving on the roadway. Residents of the area have become a familiar sight at commission meetings in recent months. Commission Chairwoman Debbie Wood expressed that she was pleased to see people come out, it showed that residents really do care about their community.