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Road issue goes before commission

The issue of county certified public roads was addressed at Tuesday’s regular meeting of the Marengo County Commission.

Resident James Ferrell spoke to the commission regarding the Sassafras Road north of Linden off Highway 69. Ferrell, his family and neighbors have had a ongoing legal fight over access to the road which goes through the property of Chuck Glass.

There have been three lawsuits regarding the right-of-way.

Ferrell and other neighbors have won rights to use the road (private easement), and the property owner could not put a gate up to block access.

Ferrell wants the county to blade the dirt road for a better driving condition. Commissioner John Crawford Jr. said the county could not maintain the road.

County Attorney Woody Dinning Jr. told Ferrell that Glass would not allow the county to put road equipment on his property.

Dinning said Ferrell legally had the right to pay a private contractor to come and improve the right-of-way.

The commission has come to an agreement with Circuit Judge Eddie Hardaway not to work on any private roads pending the lawsuit by Commissioner Freddie Armstead over such a practice.

The suit against a local legislative act that allows county work on private roads came to court November 27, and there has been no judgement on the matter. Dinning said the local act would likely be voided.

The county is also currently surveying the county to ascertain what roads are public and what roads are deemed private, Dinning said.

Glass has offered to swap with Ferrell’s family for use of an alternate road along the property boundary.

Ferrell and neighbors had previously not wanted to use the alternate road, however, Ferrell expressed an interest Tuesday in the alternate road if it could be improved for school bus passage. However, Glass has put a gate on that route.

Commission Chairman George Baldwin asked Commissioner Crawford and County Engineer Ken Atkins to work with Ferrell and Glass to look for a solution to the problem.

Commissioner Armstead said the alternate route would not be accepted as a public road, regardless.

The road would have to paved and meet certain engineering specifications to be declared a public road by the county.

However, "just because the county doesn’t accept the road doesn’t mean that it doesn’t constitute a public road," Dinning said. "There’s lots of public roads throughout the county that have never been formally accepted. The county works them because they’re public roads."

Armstead was adamant that whatever route is chosen would not be a county road.