Road closure nearing solution

Nov. 29, 2012 @ 08:00 AM

RUTHERFORD COUNTY — According to officials with Horsehead Corp. and Cherokee County (SC) a solution to a road closure in South Carolina may be near a solution.

Last Monday, Cherokee County Councilmen closed off the entrance to Island Ford Road from U.S. 221 near Chesnee. The closure created issues for Rutherford County emergency personnel as well as residents of the Hicks Grove community that used the road as a detour around the new Horsehead plant.

While there is no definite timeframe as to when the road will be reopened, Cherokee County Administrator Ben Clary said Wednesday that it could be sometime next week.

"We have to have some gravel put in and the road will have to be 'ironed' out," Clary said. "As soon as we finish that, which could be some time next week, the road will be open."

In an earlier story published by The Daily Courier, Cherokee County Councilman Mike Fowlkes said that officials approached Horsehead about the road to come to a solution to maintain the road for residential traffic.

Ali Alavi, Horsehead senior vice-president for corporate affairs, said Wednesday that there was not so much of an impasse regarding the road, but there was disagreement over Cherokee County's decision to close the road immediately.

"We talked to their officials and we asked if there was any way to hold off on that because there was the holiday coming up and we wanted to look at options to keep the road open," Alavi said. "They felt they were not in a situation to do that and they closed the road."

Cherokee County officials closed the road because of residential complaints of wear and tear on vehicles driving on Island Ford Road. The road had been used as a through-way for contractors moving equipment in and out of the Horsehead facility.

"It has been a concern and an issue with us for a while since they have started moving that dirt," Clary said. "Our concern here was with the cost and liability associated with it and it was just too much to sustain.

"I think we just came to a point where we needed to do something."

He reiterated that the situation came down to liability of the county for any damage done to normal traffic due to the weakened condition of the road.

"We don't want to be anti-economic development," Clary said. "Our whole point was to free us up of the tremendous cost of gravel and the liability of people that are traveling the road. By the end of a day, the road would have been unable for travel for sedans and small trucks."

Residents in the Hicks Grove community were using Island Ford Road as a detour due to the fact that the North Carolina Department of Transportation are still in the process of constructing a new Hicks Grove Road.

Once Island Ford Road is reopened, both Alavi and Clary said that there will be limitations as to the traffic on the road. Both indicated that no heavy truck traffic will be permitted on the road.

"We've had a good bit of stone delivered, which is what we agreed to, and Cherokee County will be laying it down," Alavi said. "Signs will be posted regarding the weight of vehicles that can travel on the road.

"We will be instructing all of our contractors to take the posted detour around Island Ford Road. Going forward, we should not have any issue with road deterioration, outside of normal road traffic."

Alavi said that Horsehead and Cherokee County officials met over the holiday and again this week to come to a resolution to reopen the road.

"We worked together to find a solution," Alavi said. "We've tried to work, all along, to be a good neighbor and we think we have acted in the best interest of the local community."