The Gadsden County commission debated for well over an hour last week on how to handle bringing privately owned roads under the county’s control.
According to county administrator Robert Presnell there are slightly less than 100 miles of private roads in the county.
The new ordinance is for the purpose of adopting a procedure that would allow the commission a way to consider acquisition of property interests and acceptance of maintenance responsibility for certain private roadways in the unincorporated areas of the county.
The ordinance specifies that the roads meet certain criteria including a 60-foot right-of-way.
Other considerations include that the road meets or can meet county road standards, that all owners of the property necessary for the individual roadway to come into compliance with county road standards voluntarily convey all desired property interests to the county, that all costs associated with the acquisition of the desired property interests and meeting county road standards are paid by the owners.
The ordinance does not include any paving and is specifically concerned with dirt road acquisition and maintenance only.
The requirement that the road must meet the standard of 60 feet by the county’s land use codes drew some attention.
Commissioner Sherrie Taylor said that the 60-foot requirement would leave most of the roads out of the process.
At issue on that point, county attorney David Weiss stated that the 60-foot of dedicated right-of-way was based on the land use code and to change it the land use code would need to be changed.
Presnell stated that only 5 or 6 miles of roads would be close enough to the requirements to be considered at this time.
When asked by Taylor what the number would be if the 60-foot requirement was changed to 45 feet, Presnell said that would raise it to about 50 percent.
Commissioner Gene Morgan stated that he thought the current way the county accepted roads on a one-by-one process had worked well in the past and saw no need to change.
Commissioner Doug Croley had issue with the additional cost that maintaining the new dirt roads would bring to bear on the county’s budget.
The county’s road maintenance is funded through the gas taxes which, according to county clerk Nicholas Thomas, are declining.
Presnell stated that there was very little money for dirt roads.
Chairman Eric Hinson said the county has $6.4 million in reserves and that the county could find grant money for the roads. Another issue brought up by commissioners Brenda Holt and Croley was water drainage and who would be responsible when someone’s property was flooded.
Three motions failed to pass that included Croley making a motion to pass the new ordinance as written, Morgan making a motion to reject the ordnance, and Taylor making a motion to allow changes including lowering the requirement from 60 feet to 45 feet.
The ordinace will be back at the next meeting with possible changes concerning the 60-foot right-of-way and allowing one road per district each year.