By Marlana Ward
The courthouse’s upper courtroom was occupied by only fifteen members of the public on Thursday, February 15, as the men and women who represent the county came together to make decisions on public policy and financial obligations.
Residents of Eldridge Lane came before the commissioners seeking the adoption of their road into the county’s road system.
Since 1995, the number of homes built along the private lane has increased. Consequently, traffic has grown as well, and according to residents, the increase in travel along the stretch of road has led to hazardous travel conditions.
“Our families do not want to come visit us because they cannot get up the hill,” Eldrige Lane resident Joey Falls told the group.
Another resident of the neighborhood, Jennifer Campbell came forward to speak about the conditions of the lane. “I drive a Dodge Durango,” said Campbell. “I cannot go up the hill without scraping.”
County Road Superintendent Darrell Reece came forward to address the situation and answer questions posed by the commissioners and residents.
Due to the way the land was divided and developed, the road leading to the homes has been the responsibility of the property owners and never part of the county’s official road system.
When asked the length of the portion of Eldridge Lane which was in question, Reece responded: “I don’t know exactly how long it is. I cannot get my truck up that hill to measure it. County maintenance ends at the group of mailboxes.”
Reece went on to list some of the improvements which needed to be made to the lane to improve travel.
“Drainage is a major issue,” he explained. “There would need to be at least three or four culverts installed which would have to turn the water onto the homeowners’ property.”
While Reece and the commissioners sympathized with the plight of the Eldridge Lane residents, they had to make the homeowners aware of the conditions of the county accepting the road as part of their maintenance responsibilities.
“It is up to the property owners to bring the road up to code before we can accept it,” Commissioner Jerry Grindstaff stated. “They can come before the Planning Commission but the road has to be brought to code, and they also have to have 22 feet of roadway surface and 40 feet of right of way.”
It was made clear to the homeowners that the road would have to meet all of the current road codes at their own expense before the county could consider the annexation of the roadway.
Campbell expressed her gratitude at being heard and the advice of the officials when she said, “At least this is a step in the right direction.”
While he had the commissioners’ attention, Superintendent Reece took the opportunity to ask their recommendations for two problems which continue to plague the county road program. The first he presented was the ever-increasing litter problem alongside all county roads.
“The inmates picked up trash along Cold Springs Road and gathered over 100 bags of garbage,” he said. “On average, they pick up 100 to 120 on every county road. It really looks bad for the county. I hoped that you all would have ideas of how to help the problem.”
County Attorney Perry Stout said that prosecution of litterers was difficult unless a name was found on the trash.
Commissioner Jerry Grindstaff reminded the commission about a program which once helped bring the amount of litter down. “The Litter Control Officer used to visit the county schools and talk to the kids about litter,” said Grindstaff. “It did seem to make some headway, but the program was cut out.”
Another commissioner mentioned how some people justified their discarding trash out their car window as giving the inmates something to do and how that mentality hurt the county. Several commissioners spoke in favor of finding ways to help the county’s litter problem.
The second problem Reece asked for recommendations combating was the destruction and theft of county road signs.
“We have installed over 800 signs since I have been in office,” Reece said. “Some of the same signs have been put up six times. Missing signs are bad for 911 and law enforcement. It is also bad for visitors traveling at night.” When asked if the department had tried installing cameras at the high-theft locations, Reece stated, “One sign we put up and installed a camera to watch for a month. We took the camera down, and the sign was stolen that very night.” Commissioners expressed they would continue to consider ways to try and improve the situation.
At 7:46 pm, Commissioner Chairman Mike Taylor announced that County Attorney Stout had requested an executive session be held and the group dismissed themselves to a private meeting. The commissioners, county mayor, and county attorney went into another room and met for approximately nine minutes. The regular commission meeting resumed at 7:56 pm.
The next meeting of the Johnson County Commissioners will be on March 15, 2018. The public is welcome and encouraged to attend.