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Disagreement continues on bridge

Landowner says she will take matter to court

October 23, 2013
Not getting the response she was hoping for from the Crawford County Board of Commissioners regarding a bridge leading to her and her husband's property near Grantsburg, Rene Lowe said she plans on taking the matter to court.

"This is where it is. It is what it is," Lowe told the commissioners at their Sept. 26 meeting at the judicial complex in English.

Lowe and her husband, Chad, who live near Indianapolis but have ground along Colvert Roll Road off of Otter Creek Road, in August asked the commissioners to acknowledge that a bridge leading to their property and in need of repair belongs to the county. They said the bridge is important as Rene Lowe, a disabled veteran who served in Operation Desert Storm, suffers seizures and an ambulance needs to have access to the property.

The commissioners at the time said they had not found any indication that the bridge and road, which also are in the Hoosier National Forest, belong to the county. Since that meeting, county attorney John E. Colin pulled the Lowes' deeds and those of the previous owner. He said he found a reference on the former that indicated a previous conveyance of property to the county as well a reference for a proposed bridge.

"So, I thought, well, maybe that's a clear indication that this property had been conveyed to the county a number of years ago where the bridge was so it made it easy to come to the determination that this is a county bridge," Colin said.

However, after he and Reggie Timberlake, the county's surveyor, platted the parcel that had been conveyed from John and Thelma King to the county in June 1955, they determined it was south of the creek, Colin said. He added that further research on property from the bottom of the bridge north that was owned by another individual indicated that it had not been conveyed to the county as of June 1955.

"The other thing I did was, I went through the commissioners' deed book from 1955 forward, and in June of '55 there is a copy of the deed that was conveyed to the county for that area, as well as a description of what was done in that regard," Colin said, adding that, while it was referenced in the September 1955 commissioners' meeting minutes, he found nothing to indicate the road and bridge belong to the county. "The last entry of that minute of the September meeting says, 'The board reported no decision has been made on their investigation of a proposed road and bridge near John King's home west of Grantsburg on Aug. 4, 1955.' "

Lowe, however, disagreed, giving the commissioners a copy of a survey from 2001 as well as a 2006 fax to the highway department that indicated the road and bridge belong to the county and that the county had been maintaining them for the previous 45 years.

Lowe, who was joined at the meeting by her father, a retired bridge builder, noted that the county has built two bridges on roads that aren't on the county's inventory map.

Randy Gilmore, president of the board, however, said the roads in question had been accepted by the commissioners.

Lowe said she and her husband "aren't going to give up."

"So, our next step is to seek official counsel, and we'll take it to court," she said, "and we'll set up a court date and we'll have it settled there."

Gilmore said Colin is still researching the matter, and, if he finds anything to show that previous commissioners had accepted the bridge and road, the current board will honor that action.

"Well, you've been seeking and seeking and seeking and it's been going on and on and on," Lowe said. "How much longer is it going to go on? We still have to gain access to our property. How much longer is it going to take to get our bridge fixed?"

Colin told the commissioners that he will continue his research "regardless, even if there is a suit … I'll still work on this end, and, if I determine that I've found something that I previously hadn't, I'll report it to you guys and make the Lowes aware of it, as well."

"That would be fine," Lowe said. "If you do find something, let us know, because the sooner that something gets done on the bridge, the better, because I don't want to be stuck up there and an ambulance not be able to get to me. Something has to be done.

"And it doesn't have to be replaced," she said of the bridge. "That's the thing. We were never asking for a brand-new bridge. We're just asking to make it passable. My dad's already looked at the bridge; he knows what it's going to take to make it passable, the cheapest way to get that done. We're not asking for the county to spend $94,000 on a bridge. That's not what we're asking at all."

In other matters at the Sept. 26 meeting, the commissioners:

•Approved, 3-0, a lease agreement with the Crawford County 4-H Council Inc. The county's Emergency Management Agency will be given space at the Crawford County 4-H Community Park south of Marengo at a cost, including utilities, of $1,000 per month.

•Voted 3-0 to allow Gilmore, as president, to sign a memorandum of agreement with Indiana 15 Regional Planning Commission regarding a brown field grant awarded to the region in May. The grant requires no match from the county.

•Voted 3-0 to approve redrawing the county council districts. The new districts, effective in 2014, will be: District 1: Jennings 1, Whiskey 1 and Whiskey 2; District 2: Liberty 1, Liberty 2 and Sterling 3; District 3: Johnson 2, Patoka 1, Patoka 2, Sterling 1 and Sterling 2; and District 4: Boone, Jennings 2, Johnson 1, Ohio 1, Ohio, 2, Union 1 and Union 2. The Crawford County Community School Corp. currently uses the same map for its four board of trustees district seats. It is expected to continue doing so, but the board must formally adopt the new districts.

Were informed by District 3 Councilman that he had received complaints from elected officials and courthouse workers regarding the maintenance person at the judicial complex. District 1 Commissioner Daniel Crecelius made a motion to abolish the maintenance position and contract the work to a third party, saying, "What we've got is not working." The motion died due a lack of a second.

Did not act on a motion from Crecelius to remove all games from the computers in the judicial complex. After Colin noted that the current employee handbook prohibits personal use of the games and playing games on the computer, Gilmore said, "I feel then we have it covered."

•Were notified by District 3 Commissioner Jim Schultz that construction of the chip shack for the county highway department north of Alton has been completed. Its address is 1319 Coon Hunters Road.

•Were told by Perry Leonard, superintendent of the highway department, that he signed a bulk fuel agreement on Sept. 23 for $3.04 per gallon. He is to bring the agreement to the commissioners' October meeting for approval.

•Noted that the highway department tractor they previously ordered will be delivered in October.

•Approved, 3-0, advertising bid specifications for an outside entity operating the county's emergency medical services. Bids were due to the Auditor's office by 4 p.m. on Oct. 18.

•Voted 3-0 to ratify the County Adjusted Gross Income Tax (CAGIT) and County Economic Development Income Tax (CEDIT) rates retroactive to Sept. 13. The rates did not change from the previous year.

•Voted 3-0 to advertise for bids for work to be done at the courthouse annex.

•The commissioners' next meeting will be Thursday, Oct. 31, at the judicial complex. A closed executive session will be at 8 a.m. with the public meeting at 9.

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