County can’t agree whether to grade private roads

Published 9:04 pm Tuesday, October 23, 2012

The Decatur County Board of Commissioners twice voted in a 3-3 tie, as they discussed Tuesday whether to allow the county to grade privately-owned dirt roads, for a nominal fee.

During Tuesday’s regular board meeting, Commissioner Oliver Sellers first voted to table the agenda item for “Update — Work on Private Property,” recommending that additional research first be completed.

However, Commissioner Dr. Earl Perry stated that he did not believe the item needed to be tabled because it was a simple yes-or-no vote. At the board’s Tuesday, Oct. 9, meeting, several commissioners had questioned whether the county could grade privately-owned roads, for a nominal fee. Sellers said he knew that Gadsden County, Fla., offered such a service.

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During Tuesday’s meeting, Perry immediately called for the matter to be put to a vote.

“Either you want to get us in trouble with the state, or we can step in and stop it before anything bad happens to the county,” said Perry, who noted his concern that the county could be held liable for any damage done to privately-owned property.

Sellers made a motion to table the issue, and Commissioner Dr. David C. “Butch” Mosely seconded that motion. Sellers, Mosely and Commissioner Russell Smith voted to table it, while Perry and Commissioners Frank Loeffler and Dr. Charles T. Stafford voted against tabling the issue.

After the first motion failed, Perry then made a motion to stipulate that no county equipment would ever be used to work on private roads. Perry, Loeffler and Stafford voted in favor of Perry’s motion, while Sellers, Smith and Mosely voted against it.

Mosely stated that he had several elderly people in his district who live on dirt roads, and the only way they can get them graded is to request for the county to do it. Perry noted that any work done on private roads, by county equipment, is illegal under state law.

County Attorney Brown Moseley said that the county could do such work, if the commission agree to a resolution allowing for such work to be done for a nominal fee. However, no such resolution ever came up to a vote during Tuesday’s meeting.

Commissioner Mosely said he had no problem with a policy that the county would not typically work on private roads, but he felt there needed to be some “exceptions.”

“I still think there’s times where humanitarian effort should be made for some of these older people,” Mosely said.

“I agree with you,” Perry said. “But I think in these cases, this is where charity should come into play. Perhaps there are some churches in the area that could help.”

Sellers again pointed out that Gadsden County offers such a service, and that it requested infrequently.

“I don’t want to sound ugly,” Perry said. “But we are in the state of Georgia, not Florida, not North Carolina or any other state.”

After the two stalemate votes, commissioners continued with the rest of the meeting’s agenda.

“I just hate that we’d shut the door on the few citizens who might really need this,” Smith said.

Earlier in Tuesday’s meeting, citizen Joe Putnal spoke on behalf of the local homebuilders’ association, urging the county to vote against selling road-grading services.

“I’m speaking for a group of people who are trying to make a living in their business,” he said. “They can’t compete with the county, if the county is footing the bill.”

Putnal also noted that the county would be liable for any damage done on private property.

“You can have all the permits in the world to do the work, but if something happens you’d still be held liable,” he said.