Mississippi County road near levee may be closed

Friday, January 20, 2012

CHARLESTON, Mo. -- Mississippi County Commissioners are looking into temporarily closing a road to keep motorists from getting stuck.

Commissioners met Wednesday for their regular weekly meeting due to a scheduling conflict. During the meeting, Presiding Commissioner Carlin Bennett said commissioners need to take some action on County Road 520.

The county road follows the base of the front-line levee around a bend in the Mississippi River northwest then west to New Madrid County where it becomes Route P.

It is also the road which provides access to the middle crevasse blown open by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in the front-line levee to activate the Birds Point-New Madrid Floodway during the spring flooding.

The combination of floodwaters and equipment traffic associated with rebuilding the levee has resulted in the road deteriorating to the point where it is now impassable for most vehicles.

Neither the road's poor condition nor locked and chained gates have kept motorists from trying, however, as reported by a county resident who lives near and owns land in that area.

"Milas Wallace has to pull about five people a day out of there," Bennett said. "You would think the big chain and lock would be enough incentive" to stay off the road.

Bennett said the county needs to do everything it can to keep motorists off that road "mainly for their own safety." When a motorist gets stuck there, "they're stuck literally in the middle of nowhere," he said.

There are two types of motorists trying to use the road, Bennett said.

The first is locals who want to see view progress on the levee and who bring four-wheel drive and all-terrain vehicles.

The second type are motorists who follow directions from New Madrid to the ferry provided by a GPS unit.

"I think that's where most of the traffic is from," Bennett said. "That's the biggest problem: when an 18-wheeler gets in there and can't turn around."

Sheriff Keith Moore said that for his department to issue citations the county will need to post signs stating the road is closed and that trespassers will be prosecuted.

Bennett said he would like to see a fine amount posted but Moore advised to "leave it up to the judge on the range of the fine."

Bennett said Wallace told him the chain on the gate had been cut off but he hasn't heard if it has been replaced yet or not.

"If they want in there, they're going to get in there," Moore said.

Commissioners agreed to discuss the issue with Darren Cann, county prosecutor.

Bennett said they also need to contact New Madrid County or the Missouri Department of Transportation to have access blocked on the road's west end.

"They have no business down there," Bennett said.

In other business during Wednesday's meeting, commissioners agreed to compare cleaning product prices from Beaver Janitor Supply in Sikeston with the cost of products currently used.

Beaver offers floor cleaner, bathroom cleaner and a multipurpose glass and surface cleaner that are mixed to correct proportions with a dispenser.

"They sell it by the case," Bennett said.

Commissioner Steve Jones said it is possible Beaver's products could end up being less costly because they are automatically mixed to correct proportions.

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