Private subdivision road project halted by county road and bridge deparment

by Dennis Sharkey

Residents in a subdivision in the county’s southeast corner are not happy after the county put the brakes on a road project.

The Northwind Drive subdivision is located just north of First Street between Wellman and Washington roads.

In November 2009 county commissioners approved a plan for a road improvement district to pave the road. The road currently is dirt and unpassable on one side according to residents. Those who live in the subdivision say school busses no longer drive down the road and the post office may quit driving on the road as well. One resident cannot get their home refinanced because of the road’s condition.

With winter fast approaching resident Karen Cross said that she and her neighbors are concerned.

“We’re not going to make it through another winter with the deterioration,” Cross said.

The project was stopped by Road and Bridge Director Francis Hubbard after he discovered that the paved road would not meet county road standards. The agreement calls for the county to assume control of the road after the work is complete. Currently the road is considered private.

At issue is the depth of the road. County guidelines say a paved road must be six inches thick, however, the project was bid for a 3.5 inch thick pavement.

Residents had thought that an agreement was reached to use 1991 guidelines. They pointed to language that said 3.5 inches could be used.

First District Commissioner Lynn Luck pointed to the bottom of the guidelines that state six inches is the standard and prior approval is needed if a different depth is used. Chairman Richard Malm did acknowledge that the commissioners agreed to revise the width of the road guideline from 24 feet to 22 feet.

All parties agree that at some point a breakdown in communication occurred, however, Malm said it was the resident’s responsibility to notify the county to what was occurring. Hubbard said he was surprised the group made it through the entire bond process with flags being raised.

But residents argued that the county did not do a good enough job of communicating with the residents and they did not know what to report. Cross said several phone calls were placed to Hubbard with no return call. Another resident, Joyce Christman, said she spoke with someone in Hubbard’s department about the specs. Furthermore, resident Sarah Kaufman said the county faxed the specs to Hamm Construction while they were formulating a bid for the district.

“At some point we should have been more involved in the bid process,” Luck said. “(Hubbard) had never been involved with the benefit district.”

Malm made an offer to the residents to bring the road up to gravel road standards and any cost savings could apply to the maintenance of the road. That offer was not acceptable to resident Leigh Diepenbrock. She said the offer would not be welcomed by her neighbors either. She believes the petition signed by residents to form the district is void.

“I am not willing to accept a $12,500 assessment to have a gravel road that I’m still responsible for maintaining,” Diepenbrock said. “I don’t think any of us would have signed a petition or allowed ourselves to be put in a financial position if the county was not assuming responsibility.

“I don’t see any give on the part of the county,” Diepenbrock added. “That is not what we signed a petition for.”

Luck tried to dispel any hard feelings.

“We really all are on the same team here,” Luck said. “It’s not us against you and I appreciate it’s not you against us. We will do what we can to make it right for everyone.”

Cross said she had a meeting planned for Wednesday night with residents and that she would present the findings of the meeting with commissioners there.

Malm suggested that residents also speak with their bonding attorney to find out if any changes can be legally done. He also told residents that commissioners want to see an engineering report before they agree to any changes. Malm said he expected an engineering report could be completed in seven to 10 working days.

As the meeting was about to conclude Hubbard made his argument that the definition of a road improvement district does not fit into the scope of what had been agreed upon. Hubbard argued that residents should be responsible for future maintenance of the road and that the county should not take over the road.

“A road improvement district to me is not bringing the road up to standards and then we take the maintenance over,” Hubbard said.

“I think right now that’s what we’re talking about and what we’ve been talking about,” Luck responded to Hubbard.

The exchange confused some residents and prompted Cross to ask “Did he just change the rules?”

Some residents also said that when the subdivision was constructed the road was dedicated to the county. Planning and Zoning Director Eloise Tichenor said she cannot find any records that show the county ever took control of the road.

Commissioners met in closed session for 15 minutes prior to the discussion.

In other actions:

  • Tichenor reported that during the Planning and Zoning Commission meeting on Oct. 19, the board reviewed the county’s comprehensive land use plan. The board recommended that no changes be made to the plan and that the plan would be reviewed again in 2011.
  • The Board met with Pat Gottstein about a parcel of land on Ferguson Road north of Perry that the Kentucky Township would like to acquire for a new fire sub-station. However, the quick claim deed for the land cannot be located. The strip of land along with several other pieces of land were deeded back to the county from the U.S. Corps. of Engineers in the 1980s. Malm said the county will contact the Corps. for a possible replacement deed.
  • Hubbard reported that the entire deck for the Big Slough Bridge has been poured.

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Posted by on Nov 6 2010. Filed under County, County Commission, Government. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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