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Road maintenance jurisdiction questioned

Staff note: After publication, Road Superintendent Jeff Wagner contacted The Tomahawk to clarify the road situation. According to Wagner, the roads in his statement were meant to be only East Hillcrest Street and Kellog Drive, both of which are not official county roads but are a part of county property.

By Meg Dickens
Staff Writer

The Johnson County Commission always features different county entities and committee reports near the beginning of its monthly meetings. These reports and other agenda items brought to light an anomaly in the Johnson County Highway Department’s treatment of roads during the most recent meeting. According to the Johnson County Highway Department, at the time of this article, Johnson County has 510 official roads equaling 376.61 miles. But during a discussion of turning certain private roads into county roads, Road Superintendent Jeff Wagner mentioned that the county has been partially maintaining several roads that are not officially on the county map. According to Wagner, this has been going on for at least a decade.

“Since I’ve worked for the county, they have pushed snow on that (East Hillcrest) road,” Wagner stated. “There are so many of these roads not on the list that has been being maintained.”

The original discussion stemmed from two roads discussed during the October 15 meeting: Kellog Drive and East Crest Street. Kim Kleine’s request to make Kellog Drive a county road has been in the works for many months. According to County Mayor Mike Taylor, Planning Commission member Jerry Grindstaff recommended making this a reality after the most recent committee meeting. The road is already on county property and houses a lot of traffic from a neighboring business. The road will need some work to meet set guidelines, including asphalt work costing approximately $8,400 in materials, but both Wagner and Commissioner Tommy Poore said they have “no problem” with making this a county road.

East Hillcrest Street is a different story. There seems to have been no groundwork to get this road approved, but its official capacity is in question. This particular road leads to houses created by CTE (Career and Technical Education) students and was built by Johnson County Schools affiliates. Wagner explained that it is very close to city jurisdiction, but the city “said they wouldn’t” take actions such as “pushing snow” during the winter, which is a problem for homeowners on that road. Mayor Mike Taylor agreed to speak with the Johnson County School Board and Director of Schools Mischelle Simcox for further clarity.

“We’ve learned from our two former lawsuits that treating it like a county road is one piece of evidence,” County Attorney Perry Stout discouraged the off-list maintenance. “Until it goes on the map, let’s not treat it like a county road.”

The Johnson County Commission meets at 7 p.m. on the third Thursday of each month at the Johnson County Courthouse. For more information, visit johnsoncountytn.gov.