Councilwoman bemoans lack of functioning pothole truck

Published 5:00 pm Thursday, January 23, 2020

Pothole-riddled streets have long been a concern for citizens and the Selma City Council alike, but at least one council member is pushing back against assertions from Selma Mayor Darrio Melton that maintenance of city streets is solely the responsibility of the council.

According to Selma City Councilwoman Jannie Thomas, Melton recently took to the airwaves in his weekly radio broadcast to blast the council for the condition of city streets and to claim that the council, not the city, should be held liable for insurance claims made in reference to cars damaged while traveling the city’s craggy byways.

“The people need to know that we don’t handle day-to-day operations,” Thomas said. “Day-to-day maintenance is supposed to be overseen by Public Works. They’ve got thousands of dollars to do the work we need done.”

The pothole truck was leased in 2016 during former Selma Mayor George Evans’ administration for $177,754.

The city makes biannual payments of $38,112.71, with the last payment slated to be made in June 2021.

According to Thomas, the city had to pay an additional $25,000 to repair the truck after a Public Works Department employee put the wrong gas in the tank.

With the layoffs in November 2018, the truck stopped operating.

“The pothole truck was shut down around the end of 2018 and it stayed down,” Thomas said. “The city has been paying on this pothole truck and it has been shut down for a year and some days because they didn’t have anybody to drive it.”

But resolving the issue isn’t as easy as simply getting the truck up and running again – since contracting Carneetie Ellison to handle administrative duties, the council has repeatedly had its work orders returned.

Just this week, Thomas attempted to contact Public Works Director Steven Hendrieth by phone regarding potholes at the intersection of Broad Street and L.L. Anderson Avenue, an issue she claims has been on the department’s radar since 2018.

Getting no answer, Thomas forwarded an email to Hendrieth alerting him to the “major problem” at the intersection and asking that it be mended immediately.

Thomas got no response.

“That truck needs to be out every day,” Thomas said. “When it doesn’t rain, they need to be out fixing these potholes. Because these are not potholes now, these are canyons.”

Thomas noted that most council members have already exhausted their oil lease funds after spending them to address various issues in their wards that have gone unresolved amid a layoff, a “sickout” and an unresponsive administration.

No new oil lease funds, which come out to around $17,000 per council member, will be available until April.

“The council is not responsible for day-to-day operations, but we do spend the little bit of money we have to fix the streets in our wards,” Thomas said. “But as fast as you fix them, if you don’t have the pothole truck come in and fix the small ones, they turn into big ones quick. Some of our wards…it’s just terrible. Some of these areas are a major problem because of these potholes. I just want people to know that the council does what it has to do, but day-to-day operations have been shut down for a year and some months.”