Darren Doyle, story and photos:
Mr. Jimmy Hayes of Sunfish, attended today's fiscal court meeting and asked prior to the start of the meeting if he could be added to the agenda. The court approved the addition to the agenda and Mr. Hayes was allowed to speak, as he raised his concerns about the condition of Sunfish-Round Hill Road.
The road has not been improved, nor have any changes been made to the barricades at the site of an enormous hole in the road, more like a canyon, where Donald Hardison died on April 28th when he drove off the end of Sunfish-Round Hill Road down a 20ft drop off into water below.
Mr. Hayes asked the fiscal court why nothing had been done to prevent another driver from entering the water on the damaged road and when is the next life going to be lost there.
"The barricade does not cover the road. People are driving around it," he said to the court. "On the Sunfish-Round Hill Road end, (HWY 187 side) there is not a 'road closed' sign anywhere."
Mr. Hayes noted that on the HWY 70 side, there is a pile of rock at the end of the road and a barricade, but he said the sign blew over during a storm on Wednesday night and it still remains down today. He spoke for several minutes about how it's the county's responsibility to maintain safety on the road and something needed to be done today. He noted a simple solution was to dump a load of rock right in the road to prevent anyone from driving any further. The barricade on the 187 side where Mr. Hardison drove into the water, is located approximately one quarter mile from the end of the road.
"Once you go around that sign (barricade) and up through there, you're going up through woods and uphill, and you're on it before you know it," he said. He also noted that while the county road department moved the barricade into the middle of the road, it can still be moved where someone could drive around it. "There's so many people in Edmonson County not aware of the enormous size of that hole until they go see it."
He then addressed Judge/Executive Scott Lindsey.
"I know you inherited that, but you're in the lead now and we're looking to you to keep someone else from dying in that hole. And the magistrates."
Judge Lindsey responded by saying "We've all been working to make that safer over there. We've talked about putting up concrete barriers like you see on the interstate in between the medians, to keep anybody from being able to get to the hole. We're working on those kinds of things. We're talking about possibly putting a gate up to keep anybody going through a 'road closed' sign, to where it covers both ditches and the road. There's a lot of things we're taking a look at right now to make it safer over there when we get an answer from FEMA."
Hayes replied with "Well, now, let's not roll the ball to somebody else," and Lindsey agreed.
"No, no," said Lindsey. "One thing you said, I inherited this. It was done prior to me getting in office, but it is my responsibility. I take full responsibility for that."
The discussion went on for a few more minutes and County Road Supervisor Joe Montgomery said he could place a load of rock in front of the hole today, with magistrate approval. Montgomery also noted that the barricade was placed where it was because there is a driveway immediately to the left, which is the last place someone could turn around on the road before the hole.
Mr. Hayes said the barricade wasn't a "fool-proof way of keeping anybody from getting to that hole." He also described it as people think there's a pot hole or a little water over the road when they see those barricades.
In December of 2019, Alexandra Richardson was able to drive around the same barricade on Oak Hill Road, where flooding had caused the water to be several feet over the road. She drove into the water intoxicated with her 20 month-old son and another juvenile. The boy died as a result of the crash and Richardson was charged and convicted of murder and sentenced to 20 years in jail.
Montgomery said concrete barriers had been purchased for this purpose but the road department wasn't able to pick them up because their trailer used for that is currently in need of repair.
Judge Lindsey said the rock would be placed in front of the road today and make sure no access would be available on either side. He also confirmed to the Edmonson Voice this evening that the rock had been placed at the end of the road today with road closure signs on each side.