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Residents take road complaints to commissioners

Residents take road complaints to commissioners
Residents take road complaints to commissioners
The Jones Road bridge was recently improved, but it has not been examined by an engineer yet so it remains rated at just five tons. Photo by Stephanie Taylor Ferriell
By Stephanie Taylor Ferriell, Senior Staff Writer, [email protected]

The Crawford County Board of Commissioners heard complaints about separate roads, neither of which are new, at its Sept. 14 meeting.

Residents of Patoka Lake Village Road were back for the second month in a row to discuss problems with road upkeep. Residents were told the road had mistakenly been listed on the county road inventory and maintained. The road is in two portions — East Patoka Lake Village and West Patoka Lake Village — and both dead-end.

When the error was discovered, the county abruptly stopped its maintenance. That resulted in a road that was severely washed out in spots, making it nearly impassable. Property owners noted a culvert on the road is getting in bad shape as well.

Last month, the commissioners told the residents they would start the process to take the road over but only if each resident agrees.

That is the sticking point. The county will require right of way from all property owners, and one landowner has not agreed to that.

Commissioner Dan Crecelius relayed a conversation he had with that individual.

“I talked to the farmer, and he didn’t seem interested in giving us right of way,” he told the group. “I told him to think about it and get back with me; he didn’t.”

The only other option, said the commissioners, is for the agreeable property owners to give double the right of way — a total of 40 feet — instead of the typical 20 feet on each side.

Commissioners’ attorney Gordon Ingle said, “If he’s in favor, he needs to come to a meeting and say so. The county can’t make him dedicate the right of way.”

Crecelius said he will contact the landowner again to determine his stance. If he still does not want to give right of way, the county will decide if it wants to move the road slightly, the result of the other property owners allowing all the right of way on their land.

In an interview after the meeting, residents expressed frustration with how the situation’s been handled, saying they don’t feel like they’ve gotten a straight answer. They also noted the property owners on West own the right of way on both sides of the road; the farmer is only involved on East.

“The key thing is the age of the residents,” said Tammy Fisher, one of those who’s spoken on behalf of the group to the commissioners.

She said most of the residents are older and have health concerns.

“What’s going to happen when an ambulance can’t get back here?” Fisher asked.

Ralph Sermersheim, who has owned his property since 1995, said the road was maintained by the property owners until the county started providing that service. All agree the county kept the road in good shape but it deteriorated once that stopped.

Fisher said from what she’s been able to find regarding the county taking over roads in subdivisions, Patoka Lake Village qualifies. The subdivision is completed at this point, with no further development planned.

If the county is not going to take over the road, property owners need to hear that, they said. When the county hasn’t provided maintenance, property owners have done it at their own expense. They need to know if that’s how they should plan for the future.

“We asked about the process so we would understand,” said Fisher. “What do we need to do? We don’t know.”

Also at the Sept. 14 commissioners’ meeting, Kelly Hammond voiced concerns about Beasley and Jones roads and the bridges on them, noting he was returning after first appearing before the board about one year ago.

He said he was told last year that the roads would be worked on and that materials to replace a bridge had been purchased but didn’t meet current requirements. Now, he said, the conditions have further deteriorated.

Beasley Bridge, said Hammond, is rated at just four tons and Jones Bridge is posted with a five-ton limit. The latter had a 12-ton limit one year ago, he said.

“These bridges are the only access to 26 residents and several others who actually own property on Jones and Beasley roads, and it is now to the point that residents cannot legally receive life-sustaining necessities such as water, propane, firewood and emergency response vehicles.” Hammond said, adding that farm equipment cannot cross the bridges nor can school buses.

Crecelius explained that the Jones Bridge recently underwent repairs, including the load-carrying beams being improved. He said the bridge will almost certainly be rated at a much higher load limit once it’s inspected by a bridge inspector.

That process is currently underway throughout the county.

Hammond also described poor road conditions, saying he had previously been told the roads were included in the county’s Community Crossings grant application. He said half of Beasley is paved. The remainder, along with Jones Road, “is gravel, broken up chip and seal with one small area of new chip and seal.”

Commissioner Morton Dale explained that those roads were submitted for Community Crossings. However, it is the state which determines which roads funding will be awarded for, he explained.

In response to Hammond’s questions about a road plan and how the county determines which roads to improve, Crecelius said the board considers the number of people who live on the road and the amount of travel.

“Money’s a factor, too,” he said.

Crecelius said the county has recently begun using millings (ground-up pavement removed in preparation for new asphalt) on gravel roads, focusing on steep hills. The millings bind together to provide a surface with more traction and that can be more easily plowed.

In other business, the board heard from Josh Norman with Outer Net broadband service. Norman said he wants to bring another broadband option to the county and would like to start in Milltown.

He’s seeking an agreement to place equipment on county-owned towers. The commissioners asked Norman to return with a written proposal which they will consider.

The commissioners unanimously approved changing the employee handbook regarding paid time off for bereavement. Instead of reading “four days” for funeral leave, it now reads “four consecutive days.”

The board acknowledged the hiring of a new employee, Kelly Thompson, at the Soil and Water Conservation District office.

Last year, the commissioners entered an agreement with the veterans housing facility in Carefree to obtain a piece of property for an EMS station. The survey was completed and the title prepared but never recorded.

Because another location was selected, the board voted to rescind the deed so that it may be destroyed. The property remains with the veterans organization.

It was noted Court Appointed Special Advocates and the judge’s office are requesting Wi-Fi so they may complete work while away from the office.

Ingle discussed the matter of tax sale properties that fail to sell. He said the law has changed and now requires when a minimum bid is not received that the auditor prepare a document of the actual cost and place it on the deed.

He said it doesn’t appear the properties may be sold for less than the bid price. The county might be able to give them to non-profit organizations.

Ingle will do further research and report back.