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County could maintain gravel roads

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By Calen McKinney

Magistrates are moving forward with once again accepting gravel roads into the county road system.

On Tuesday, Taylor County Fiscal Court members agreed to draft an amendment to its current subdivision ordinance that states the requirements for a road to be added to the county's road maintenance system.

Now, residents wanting the county to maintain their roads must submit a request and then abide by several requirements, one being that the road is blacktopped.

However, at a recent meeting of Taylor County Fiscal Court's Transportation Committee, magistrates discussed how that requirement essentially eliminates some roads from ever being accepted into the county road maintenance system, because the cost to blacktop roads is high.

On Tuesday, magistrates voted 4-2, with John Gaines and Ed Gorin casting the lone "no" votes, to begin requiring two instead of three homes to be on the road and for roads to no longer have to be blacktopped to be considered for the county road system.

But some magistrates said they believe the change will cause an influx of gravel roads added to the county's maintenance system, and those who have their roads added will expect the county to blacktop them.

In 2007, magistrates voted that roads considered for inclusion in the county road system must be 18 feet wide with a 40-foot right of way, be blacktopped and three or more homes must be built on the road. Since then, few roads have been added to the county road system.

The county adopted an ordinance in 2008 setting requirements for roads built in subdivisions.

Magistrates have in the past said they want to work toward eliminating all the gravel roads in the county.

Gorin said he believes all roads added to the county's maintenance system that are built within a subdivision should be blacktopped.

Magistrate Richard Phillips, who chairs the transportation cabinet, said requiring more of those who build a road in a subdivision than those whose roads aren't wouldn't be fair.

If the proposal passes, Gorin asked if the county will refund the money residents paid to pave their roads in order to be included in the county maintenance system.

Phillips said the proposal doesn't come with the promise that any gravel roads accepted into the county system will be blacktopped. But Gorin said he believes not requiring blacktop will open the door for those building roads to ask the county to pave them.

Pendleton said he believes requiring blacktop essentially eliminates some roads from ever being considered for addition into the county system. It behooves those who build roads in subdivisions to pave them anyway, he said. And he said some roads were paved even before it was required.

Gaines said that, in the past, the request for blacktop was almost immediate after gravel roads were added to the county's maintenance system. He said it has taken him 11 1/2 years to get rid of the gravel roads in his district.

"I hate to go back to gravel," he said.

Blacktopped roads are easier to maintain, Gaines said, and he believes it isn't fair to once ask people to pay for blacktop and then no longer require it.

"I just hate to see us go backwards, myself," he said.

Pendleton said the new stipulations will simply allow residents a way to get their roads considered for county maintenance.

He said the requirements are stringent, even without the blacktop requirements. But without making the change, he said, very few roads will be added to the county's system. And that will mean less money from the state to maintain roads.

Gaines said he believes magistrates will be pressured to blacktop roads, should the new ordinance pass.

"That's fine," Pendleton said. "The pressure doesn't bother me. I wouldn't be sitting here if it did."

Eventually blacktopping a road, he said, would be for the magistrate representing the district in which the road is built to decide.

"They're gonna ask for it, yes," Pendleton said.

Gorin said he believes paying for that blacktopping will cost taxpayers, and benefit those wanting to subdivide the land near the road and sell it.

"And that's what I'm against," he said. "We're gonna be paying money to make somebody else rich."

Magistrate Tommy Corbin said some roads have been accepted into the county system that weren't blacktopped properly. And then, he said, the county had to repair those roads.

"So that's taxpayer's money too," he said.

Gaines said he believes this change will only create more gravel roads in the county, not do away with them as magistrates tried to do before. Phillips said he understands the concern, but doesn't believe that will happen.

After the discussion, Phillips made a motion to draft a new ordinance, which Pendleton seconded. Gaines and Gorin voted "no."

Pendleton then made a motion for County Road Foreman Brian Smothers to inspect Pioneer Point, Birmingham Way, Montgomery Avenue and Anniston Trail to see if they meet the requirements to be added into the county road system.

Pendleton said the roads are paved and were built before the county's subdivision requirements were put in place, so they should be eligible. The request was approved unanimously.

Flag Pole

A new flagpole will soon be installed at the Taylor County War Memorial.

Rogers told magistrates that trees at Courthouse Square have grown taller and hidden the current pole.

He said it has been proposed to install another pole beside the current one. The older pole will fly the county and state flags, he said, and the new one will fly the American flag.

The new pole will be 35 feet tall, Rogers said, and the current one is 30. Rogers said the new pole will be illuminated.

After the meeting, he said the pole will cost $1,750 and $1,040 for the materials. A new American flag, he said, at 6x10, will cost $138.

Also at the Meeting:

• Rogers said the county must have an appraisal done on the property it recently purchased on U.S. 68 belonging to former magistrate Bobby Roots, though he doesn't know what it will cost.

He said the county will build a road connecting to the property, if it receives the OK from state officials, which will give the site three entrances and exits. One entrance will be from West Main Street and the others will be from U.S. 68.

Magistrates agreed to move forward with the appraisal.

• Rogers said Carrier officials will be at the Taylor County Courthouse on July 16 to perform a final inspection before parts are ordered for the new HVAC system. He said work on the project is expected to begin around September.

• Magistrates gave Taylor County Jailer Hack Marcum approval to be able to refer to a list of bonds for inmates who come to the Taylor County Detention Center after being arrested and charged with committing nonviolent offenses.

A listing of offenses and the bonds for them has been created for use at jails across the state to help reduce the amount of time county inmates are held before being assessed by pretrial staff members.

If an inmate comes to the jail and is accused of committing one of the crimes on the list, his or her bond will be set at the amount that corresponds with that crime.

• The court had first reading of a 25 mph speed limit on Wilcoxson Road.

• Magistrates approved their monthly requests for road improvements. They include repairs to potholes and tiles, installing signs, mowing and ditch and pothole repairs.

• Taylor County Sheriff's Office policies and procedures were approved. There are few differences between them and the county's employee policies.

• Magistrates approved the transfer of $29,582.75 from the county's reserve fund in its general fund to the sheriff, county treasurer and tax clerk equipment, courthouse engineer and unemployment insurance line item funds.