Road projects dominated most of the meeting, but additional topics of interest included zoning changes, funding assistance and fee hikes for local services.
One such debate concerned the identification of a roadway located in the county. For nearly a year, Donnie Smith has requested the county work the road up to property he owns in the area.
The panel could not reach an agreement in recent months whether or not the county had maintained the road or if it was privately owned. Previous discussion suggested the county had once worked it back in the 1930s-50s, but since abandoned it.
Smith even had an older gentlemen tell the panel last summer that he remembered a school bus picking up children along the road.
Since that, though, the road ownership has been in limbo, leaving no one to know for sure who owns the road.
Tuesday night, county attorney Brad McFall told Smith that Inland Temple, a timber company, owns the right of way around the road, therefore they should own the road. Furthermore, the matter is now out of the county’s hands.
McFall said he had researched the road’s history and found a deed record that suggests Inland as the most recent owner.
Smith, who appeared a little irate, asked the panel why they did not tell him this 11 months ago, when he had first approached them about the matter, instead of having it dragged out so long. He said it appears the county board attorney had been wasting the taxpayers’ time by allowing the issue to go on for so long, when it could have been resolved sooner.
McFall responded that he had only been asked to research the property deed in January and not 11 months ago. Smith then clarified his statement and said that the county board then had dragged the issue out longer than ever needed.
Smith added that he could not believe Inland owned the road, for people he had talked to at the timber company had denied ownership of the road but rather owned the surrounding property.
The panel did not take any action on the matter, once McFall stated the county did not own the right of way.
Acting chairman David Jarvis suggested also that having another road in the county to upkeep would be difficult, as there are many roads in dire need of repair and paving work.
Jarvis chaired the night’s group in the place of Mike Hooper, who was reported to be sick.
Several citizens were on the agenda to discuss repairs on their roads, yet only a few showed up to voice their concerns. Paris Mountain Road and Garmon Road were two roads given special attention by the board. A petition was presented to the commission with more than 20 signatures of homeowners and landowners in the Paris Mountain area strongly urging the county to pave their road.
Homeowner Greg George spoke on behalf of his neighbors and handed out photographs depicting the harsh conditions of the road from the winter weather. He said the road is impassable at times and cannot be patroled by police nor used to bus students to school.
Another neighbor stated that the road was “one of the worst roads in the county,” which also was voiced by commissioner Billy Williams.
Similar sentiment was expressed by residents about Garmon Road.
Jarvis told the group that the county board was aware of the situations, but had their interests elsewhere, specifically repairing roads that had once been paved.
“Unfortunately, we have many paved roads that have turned back to dirt roads from this winter that we got to repair,” he said. “And we have a lot of them.”
County manager Clinton Lester shed more light on the projects, stating that the dirt roads had held water, then froze, only to thaw out and leave behind slushy conditions, making the roads very hard to navigate down. He had listed some 38 roads that were in need of rework, which probably would be done when warmer weather came.
“We have had the worst winter that I can recall. I’ve heard that this was the second worst winter in Georgia history,” Lester said. “We have 38 roads with the similar situation as Paris Mountain and Garmon and have put out over $30,000 worth of gravel on these roads, which is the most we have put out during the winter.
“We could easily spend all summer patching these roads and not put any asphalt down. They may be beating up our cars, but this really is all we can do at this time. It’s been a horrible winter.”
Lester added that the county road department should be commended for what they have done up to this point in at least trying to make the roads passable. Board members agreed and reviewed the paving and repair list again.