LEPANTO, Ark. — The ride through Lepanto, Ark., is a lot smoother now that state road crews have finally repaired the town’s only two bridges.
In March, we showed you how dangerous they were. But while the state initially said there wasn’t enough money to fix the bridges, persistence by the Poinsett County town’s mayor finally paid off.
People using the bridges are glad for the improvements.
On any given day, you’re likely to see Johnny Gann negotiating the streets of Lepanto in his motorized wheelchair.
Naturally, he’s thrilled the Little River Bridge has finally been repaired.
“Oh man, yeah. It’ll save my wheelchair. It’ll save my chair, comin’ back and forth,” said Gann.
He vividly recalls how bad the bridge was until Arkansas road crews turned the surface from a “washboard” to “smooth as silk.”
“I think Big Foot been trompin’ up and down on it. Listen, that thing was pretty rough,” said Gann.
“We need to step on the other side of the bridge,” he added.
In March, Lepanto Mayor Steve Jernigan took us on a tour of two deteriorating bridges on Highway 14.
Old age and a long, brutal winter turned concrete slabs into tiny rocks, and the Arkansas Highway Department told the mayor no funds were available to fix the Little River Bridge and Potters Bridge on the west side of town.
But Mayor Jernigan was persistent.
“And eventually, you keep chipping away at the problem and eventually you’ll get results,” said Jernigan.
It took five months but the mayor, along with Poinsett County’s state representatives, put pressure on the state to make the bridges safe to travel.
Jernigan said Highway 14 is a major route for farm equipment, grain haulers and the growing steel industry.
It all passes through Lepanto.
“We get all the steel trucks coming put of Mississippi County heading West. So, we get lots of 18-wheelers,” said Jernigan.
Jernigan says the state put down a two-inch thick layer of asphalt.
The mayor wanted the bridges completely replaced, but the state said the bridges still have a lot of use left in them.