Does Ralton Baker Own Franklin County Road 22? - Part III
Jason Miller (pictured) thought he was doing the right thing when he told the Franklin County road department to erect "No Truck" signs on County Road 22 in Spruce Pine. After all, the county had already established a new truck route, and Co. Rd. 22 was in no condition to handle the volume of truck traffic it regularly received. Narrow and pockmocked by potholes, 22 needed extensive work in order to make it serviceable again. Surely Commissioner Miller's plan was the best under the circumstances?
Enter Ralton Baker. The owner of R. Baker Inc. and various other enterprises that sent trucks onto 22 daily was not happy. In fact, he was so disgruntled with the county's new policy that he personally appeared before the commission on May 13th. At that time, he reportedly said:
“The fuel tax for highway fuel is 43.4 cents per gallon. One truck used 25,657 gallons of fuel last year costing $11,135.14 in fuel tax. One truck/trailer unit will use 18 tires per year. A set of tires for this unit will cost $9,065.36 of which $1,073.78 is taxes and fees. Insurance for one truck per year is $9,360. The tag for one truck is $1,049.64 and we pay a heavy use tax per truck of $550. For the sand plant, we use 200,000 gallons of fuel in Franklin County for a total tax of $86,000. And we pay 10 cents per ton on a million tons of sand per year for $100,000, so I feel like I own part of these roads too because we're paying for them.”
Insurance? Just what Baker thinks insurance on his trucks has to do with financially helping the county is certainly nebulous. Yet, it's the last statement that concerned many Spruce Pine residents who contacted PNS. Does one man, albeit an important businessman, command a larger interest in a Franklin County road than the other citizens of Spruce Pine and the surrounding areas?
Perhaps he does, since the "No Trucks" signs were promptly removed. Baker's fleet again barrels down County Road 22, and according to residents there has been at least one reported accident since the signs came down.
The county is attempting to secure funding to redo County Road 22. Widening the road in some of the Spruce Pine area is needed, but not popular. Again, who will control the project? Will it be Franklin County or Ralton Baker?
This is an ongoing dilemma for the residents of this small Franklin County community, and PNS will pubish updates should they become available.