HOMER — A lifelong Banks County resident who wants to invest $1.2 million in a poultry farm expansion is asking the county for help, but that assistance would not be inexpensive, officials say.
Knute Carnes of Carnes Circle, Baldwin, appeared before the Banks County Commission at its meeting Tuesday night asking county leaders to either improve the weight capacity of a bridge or upgrade a county road leading to his 250-acre property.
"Soapstone Road is probably one of the earliest roads in the county, probably dates back to the 1700s," Commission Chairman Jimmy Hooper said after the meeting. "It started off as a trail and expanded some. No houses are on the road and it's very few, limited landowners. A lot of hunters are in there."
Hooper gave some background on the bridge that is the subject of Carnes' request.
"Back in the '60s, a cement bridge was built, and I don't know the reasoning why," Hooper said. "A request was made to make improvements on the bridge. These are extremely expensive."
Carnes said Banks County needs to update its roads and bridges.
"It can't go on like this forever," Carnes told commissioners. "At some point in our lifetimes, something has to be done about the road or the bridge. It can't just keep getting swept under the rug. You can't hold back growth because of the infrastructure."
The bridge in question has a weight limit of 19 tons and Fieldale Farms requires a capacity of 40 tons for its trucks to service a farm, Carnes said.
"What I understand is when it was built, it was built as a 19-ton load limit," Commissioner David Duckett told Carnes. "That was standard at that time. Now I know Jack Irvin hauled logs across that bridge. I ain't going to say that it won't hold up 100 tons -- but the state's got it labeled with the drawings they've got as a 19-ton bridge."
Duckett said a load test on the bridge could cost $100,000, an amount not budgeted.
Carnes reminded commissioners the taxes he would pay off the poultry complex over the next 50 years would help offset the expense of any improvements to the road or bridge.
Hooper said he doesn't know how Soapstone Road could be improved because of its boulders and lack of shoulders and ditches.
"Of course Banks County, like any other county, has to prioritize our money and we'll take it under advisement what we can do," Hooper said after the meeting.