Road responsibilities discussed by city, county

Published 12:00 am Thursday, July 14, 2005

DEMOPOLIS-The question of who is responsible for Lem Wilson, Sunshine and South Maria Roads may soon have a clear answer. The roads have been maintained by the county for some time, but were annexed by the city several years ago. Since that time many residents have come to the city with questions about who to contact when there were problems with the roads.

Demopolis Mayor Cecil P. Williamson came before the Marengo County Commission Tuesday to try to get a concrete answer to some of the questions she has been asked.

“I do not understand one of our road situations,” Williamson said. “I get asked by the Utility Board and Planning Commissions and at council meetings about the Lem Wilson Road, the Sunshine Road and the Lower Poole Road. Our question is have those roads been deeded to the county?”

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Williamson said she wanted to have an accurate answer when people came to her with such questions.

“I feel like when these citizen’s come to me I need to know the answer,” Williamson said. “I want to be clear when I see Mr. Wilson or the people on Sunset Road or South Maria to tell them you need to call Ken Tucker or Freddie Armstead because they are the county’s representatives.”

County Attorney Woodie Dinning said the issue was very complicated.

“When you get into an issue on private versus public roads you get into public road domain,” Dinning said. “When you get into public road domain you have two different categories. You’ve got your deeded public road whereby the city or county have deeded rights of way and they own the road and maintain the road and that is public. Then you have a category of public roads where through decades the public for traversing has used that road and it has been maintained by governmental entities whether it is city, county or state and it is classified as a public road although you could never find a deed in the courthouse. By use it is considered a public road.”

Dinning said government could maintain the roads because of heavy travel through the areas in question.

“The city, county and state government are allowed to work on both those types of roads,” Dinning said. “In a city like Demopolis or Linden you don’t really have roads where you get by use. Out in the county and in more rural areas there are many, many areas where people began to use roads in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s and used them for so long it was categorized as a public road.”

Dinning said as a whole the Lem Wilson Road had not been deeded to the county, but had been maintained because of its public use.

“As for these roads, the Lem Wilson Road has not ever been deeded to the city or county,” Dinning said. “It has been utilized for years as a road for use by those persons so it is considered to be a public road for use and the county can maintain it.”

As for the annexed areas of Sunshine Road and South Maria, Dinning said a statute says when the city annexed an area if the road had been used and maintained as a county public road the county still held rights to that road and obligations to maintain unless the county asked the city to take it over or the city asked the county to allow them to take it over and they came to an agreement.

In order to clear the picture the county is expected to come before the city in a a future meeting and ask them to accept the roads.