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Pothole patchman ends prowl in Jackson, Mississippi

The Trucker file photo

By Dustin Barnes
The Associated Press

7/10/2013

JACKSON, Miss. — The Pothole Patchman has roamed the streets of Jackson for weeks, filling in the crater-heavy roads with buckets of asphalt and his own sweat.

The do-gooder has been content to patch up some of the worst holes in the north Jackson neighborhoods of Belhaven and Fondren. And while he's not afraid to say who he is, the Patchman said it's never been about him but about the city seeing the extent of the problem it has with its roads.

Now, Ron Chane (pronounced Chaney) is hanging up his asphalt-filled buckets after meeting his personal goal of 100 repairs on Monday night.

"We are happy to have done at least a small service for the taxpayers of Jackson even with its controversial and odd nature in going about it," said Chane, a local business owner who lives in Belhaven.

Chane started his mission on Memorial Day, taking occasional trips to pick up asphalt from a large mound near the southern end of State Street, a pile he termed Mount St. Asphalt.

On Tuesday, Chane said officials with the Mississippi Department of Transportation visited him to talk about the asphalt — materials the state agency owns.

Chane said he was told MDOT did not plan to prosecute in this case and seemed "to be on the understanding side of the issue."

"Jackson is now on its own to do the rest," said Chane. "We hope somewhere down the line that we woke up the system to be better for all."

Armed with a dozen buckets, Chane had been repairing potholes he encounters. Once he's filled in the holes, Chane marks his repairs "Citizen Fixed" with spray paint.

"I'm probably stealing ... but there's not a sign saying 'Don't take this and put it in potholes,' " said Chane. "So I'm putting (the asphalt) back where it belongs."

Chane said he could understand problems if he took the asphalt home or sold it.

"But in this case, I'm putting it where it belongs," he said. "Some people say I could be arrested."

Jackson officials were made aware of Chane's pothole ploys on Monday, said Latrice Westbrook, interim city spokeswoman.

Jackson Mayor Chokwe Lumumba said in a news release later that day that he is evaluating the city's infrastructure.

"We applaud anyone who commits to making reasonable improvements within their communities, but we do not accept any use of the city's resources without going through the proper legal channels," he said in the release.

The mayor did not directly address Chane's repair of potholes.

Lumumba "wants to assure the citizens that he is anxious to address the concerns that plague our streets and neighborhoods," the news release said.

Chane said he hopes the city sees his work as something positive to fix a longstanding problem.

"It's about getting the city to finally say, 'We're going to take some money from other budgets and fix the infrastructure. Let's have a nice-looking place.' "

The state of the streets was noted by Lumumba during his inauguration July 1.

"People have been complaining about the roads, and that it's kind of tough to drive on some of our roads sometimes," said Lumumba. "But the reality is I was walking on the road, and it was kind of tough to walk on it."

Meanwhile, many residents celebrated Chane's efforts.

"I think that kind of thing is fabulous," said Virgi Lindsay, executive director of the Greater Belhaven Neighborhood Foundation. "I would like to say 'thank you very much,' to this citizen.

"The city cannot do everything," Lindsay said. "The government can't take care of everyone, so I applaud any citizen for stepping up to fix the problem."

Chane said his idea was born during a drive to Denny's in late May when he was jarred repeatedly by potholes.

"We were behind a little hippie van with a bumper sticker that said, 'Quit your (fussing) and do something about it.' "

So Chane, with the help of his girlfriend, went to work. "I thought I could just make one less pothole to deal with."

However he started setting goals: first to fill a few more, then to fill 50. Then, it was a goal of 100.

"Hopefully someone else will come behind me," said Chane. "I don't want to do the city's work forever."

Fixing the potholes is simple, said Chane, adding that it takes around an hour for him to leave him home, pick up the rocks at Mount St. Asphalt and get to work plugging the streets.

He puts in more asphalt — or overloads — the potholes to adjust for the portions of material moved by cars or rain.

The city's infrastructure should be a top priority for everyone, he said. It's not just about keeping the capital city nice, it's also for practical reasons.

"I put about $900 into the front end of my SUV because it hit so many potholes," said Chane. "I need to fix potholes or quit what I'm doing and open a front-end alignment shop."

Information from: The Clarion-Ledger, http://www.clarionledger.com

DUSTIN BARNES, The Clarion-Ledger

The Trucker staff can be reached to comment on this article at editor@thetrucker.com.

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