This photo shows the Bethel Ridge Road bridge before the recent replacement project, which was undertaken by the Jackson County Highway Department.

This photo shows the Bethel Ridge Road bridge before the recent replacement project, which was undertaken by the Jackson County Highway Department.

"A real and present emergency exists at the present time because of the flooding that occurred on Feb. 22," said Jackson County Engineer Melissa Miller during the most recent meeting of the Jackson County Commissioners.

Miller was present for the Tuesday morning, June 19 meeting to discuss state and federal regulations pertaining to a county board of commissioners' ability to exempt work from the bidding process "when it is determined that a real and present emergency exists."

This action is allowed, she stated, via a unanimous vote of a county board of commissioners. Specifically, Miller was referencing Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) contracts for repairs to county infrastructure damaged in February's flooding episode.

In light of the damages to county roads, bridges and culverts as a result of the flooding event earlier this year, Miller said repairs are needed as soon as possible.

"As far as I'm concerned, our highway system is in a state of emergency," Miller said. "Another such flood at this time, before repairs are made, could be devastating."

Miller asked the commissioners Tuesday for approval to proceed with contracts for some ditching and pipe clean-out work without the typical bidding process, given the circumstances. The commissioners did unanimously approve her request in the form of Resolution 137-18. Miller stated the estimated contract value of this work is in the range of $950,000.

Further, Miller also stated that her office has been undertaking a number of repairs in-house, though she and her employees are simply unable to perform all of the necessary work. As an example of this, Miller and all three commissioners visited a bridge Tuesday morning that was recently replaced on Bethel Ridge Road at the intersection of Beaver Pike.

The old structure was only 18 feet wide, which made it difficult for motorists to turn onto Bethel Ridge from Beaver Pike, according to Miller. The new structure is actually 36 feet wide. This project was funded by the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program. The County Highway Department performed all of the labor on the project and used county equipment in an effort to save money.