Ludowici Mayor James Fuller said timber trucks are damaging several roads in Ludowici.
“These timber trucks are coming through here, tearing up the roads, and it’s got to stop,” he said.
Fuller said that just prior to the start of school, Baxter Forest Products and the Georgia Forestry Commission began buying timber from private landowners and the Georgia Department of Transportation in Ludowici. With these purchases, he said, the timber trucks have torn up sections of Factory Hill Road and McQueen and Plywood streets.
“They’ve been coming up and down these roads and have knocked our street signs down several times, too,” Fuller added.
Some roads have been just paved over the last few years, and the mayor wants help repairing the damages and for the trucks to stop using the roads.
“We’re a small community, and it’s expensive to pave our roads,” Fuller said. “These roads were paved for our residents not for timber trucks to be hauling lumber back and forth.”
John Baxter, owner of Baxter Forest Products, said that the roads are the responsibility of the city and that the landowners have a right to sell their timber products.
“The skinny of it is, these roads are the only access to this property, and these are public streets. There is no other way to get to these land owners property and they have a right to sell their timber,” he said.
Baxter said the roads were not paved to the specifications that they should have been and, as a result, the roads are breaking down.
“Look, I apologize for what has been done, but legally I’ve done nothing wrong,” he said. “Whether it is a timber truck, dump truck or a bus, these are public roads to be used. The reality is that there is about 1 inch of pavement on the roads, and you probably need at least 3 inches.”
Though Baxter said city roads were the only access to the property in question, Fuller said that isn’t the case. According to the mayor, the timber property can be accessed from Pine Island with the trucks using Highway 57.
“They’re trying to say that the only way to get to the property is from our streets, but there are state-owned roads that they can use, that come out on Highway 57,” he said. “They need to use these roads and not our city streets that were paved for normal residential use.”
Fuller also disputed Baxter’s claim that the timber trucks are not liable for damages that have taken place in the city.
“We’ve done our research, and according to the Georgia Code, any person or business who damages a public road, they are responsible to reimburse the local governing authority for what it costs to have that road repaired,” the mayor said.
Georgia Forestry Commission spokesperson Wendy Burnett said, “We are in the process of reviewing contracts, communications and other materials from this timber sale, and we look forward to continuing to work with the city of Ludowici in resolving it.”
Fuller said that until the issue is resolved, there will be no more timber trucks allowed on the roads in question.
“Look, we will work with them any way we can, but all I know is right now our roads are being torn up and it’s my responsibility to do what I think is in the best interest of the citizens. And until this is resolved, we can’t have any more timber trucks on these roads,” he said.