September 04, 2013Frustrated with the response she received from the Crawford County Board of Commissioners at its meeting Thursday morning at the judicial complex in English, Rene Lowe threatened to involve an attorney.
Lowe and her husband, Chad, who live near Indianapolis but have ground along Colvert Roll Road off of Otter Creek Road near Grantsburg, asked the commissioners to acknowledge that a bridge leading to their property and in need of repair belongs to the county.
Renee and Chad Lowe, who own property off of Colvert Roll Road, asked the Crawford County Board of Commissioners to repair a bridge leading to their driveway. The commissioners, however, said the bridge isn't listed on the county inventory and, therefore, they could not use tax money to do so. Photo by Chris Adams
The commissioners, however, said no research they have done has shown the bridge and road, which also are in the Hoosier National Forest, belong to the county and, therefore, they cannot use tax dollars to repair it.
The Lowes told about an incident a couple of week ago where their vehicle partially went through the bridge. Rene Lowe, a disabled veteran who served in Operation Desert Storm, said a passable bridge is important as she suffers seizures and an ambulance needs access to the property.
Chad Lowe said the deed for the property indicates it is a county road.
"It's not my road, it's not my bridge. It never has been. It's not the Hoosier National Forest's bridge and their road," he said. "It's your guys' bridge and road."
Board president Randy Gilmore disagreed, however.
"We just do not feel that that's our road because of past work that's been done on it by private individuals and they were hired to do it by the land owners," he said.
Lowe said the property has been owned by his family for years, and the only work to the bridge, if it could be called that, was putting down boards so that excavators could cross to the other side. He claimed, however, that the county did do work on the road when another family owned the property.
County attorney John E. Colin said he and the county highway superintendent haven't been able to find anything, either in the bridge maintenance packet or the county inventory, that would indicate the bridge belongs to the county.
"The one aspect of any of this is, even if the county chooses to want to be able to do work, you can't do it if it's solely on private property, short of it being an emergency type situation," he said.
"So, if it isn't your guys' property and it's not mine and it's not Hoosier's, who's is it going to be?" Lowe asked.
Rene Lowe said the couple, who hope to build a house there for when they retire, spend many weekends at the property.
"I'm there a lot," she said. "So, what happens if I have a seizure and die because someone can't get to me? What happens?,"
"I will tell you, the county, obviously through 911 and others, will do their best to get to anybody wherever they may be," Colin said.
"But what if they can't get across the bridge because the bridge can't hold an ambulance?" Lowe asked.
"If we can't demonstrate that's a county bridge, I would do what I could to try to improve it in such a way as to make sure they're going to be able to. This similar argument would exist with any other individual that says, 'County, you should improve a bridge or make a bridge over my private property.' "
District 1 Commissioner Daniel Crecelius reiterated that the commissioners' hands are tied.
"We're governed by the State Board of Accounts, and I just went through the bridge inventory, and, if that bridge is not on that bridge inventory, whether it should be or whether it's not, we can't maintain it," he said. "The State Board of Accounts will come down here and say, 'If you maintain that bridge, it's coming out of your pocket.' I'm talking about us three guys."
The county could adopt the bridge, but, Gilmore said, replacing it could cost between $75,000 and $100,000.
Wanting to move the meeting forward, Gilmore said Colin would look up the property deed to continue researching the matter.
"OK. I understand, but, I mean, I'm not just going to drop it down," Chad Lowe said, claiming that the commissioners at a previous meeting said the bridge belonged to the county.
Gilmore denied Lowe's claim.
"We are getting an attorney. We've already spoken with an attorney. Chad has access to a corporate attorney. So, that's what we're going to do," Rene Lowe said.
"I understand where you're coming from, but you have to understand where we're coming from, too," she said.