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Magistrates OK changes to gravel road specs

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Required width on ‘orphan’ roads shrink to 30 feet

By Ben Carlson

Residents living on any of the 120 miles of the county’s “orphan” roads shouldn’t hold out much hope that county government will someday soon take over the maintenance of those roads.
Magistrates did tweak the county’s existing gravel road requirements when they met last Tuesday night, but stopped well short of making the demands spelled out in those requirements easier for residents to meet in order for their roads to be taken over.
The only change OK’d was to shrink the required right of way on roads from 50 feet to 30 feet for them to be placed under county maintenance. That change was tentatively approved, but is subject to a public hearing and two public readings before magistrates can vote the change into law.
Other requirements, such as the depth of the gravel and shoulder work, remain the same, meaning residents on orphan roads with no maintenance would have to first spend tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars to meet those specifications before their roads could be adopted for county maintenance.
That those gravel road requirements even exist came as a surprise. When a group of Herndon Road residents lobbied the court to fix and maintain their road earlier this year, it was said that the gravel road specifications from 2006 were never formally adopted, leaving the county without any specifications at all.
During last Tuesday’s meeting, those specifications were now said to exist, and that they were voted on and approved in 2006.
During the meeting, Magistrate Kenny Barnett questioned the need for roads to have a 50-foot right of way.
“What is it on other roads?” asked Barnett, who represents the county’s Sixth District.
“Thirty feet,” replied Judge-Executive John Wayne Conway.
“We need to be consistent,” said Magistrate David Ruggles, who later made a motion to narrow the right of way to 30 feet that was unanimously approved and will now be subjected to a pair of public hearings.
Conway, who voted against the gravel road specifications as a magistrate in 2006, said he didn’t like them at the time and still doesn’t. However, he said there is now way for the fiscal court to begin taking over roads that don’t meet minimum specifications.
“One road, that I won’t name, if we take it over it will cost $120,000 to get it to specs,” Conway said. “If you want to start taking on roads, the road fund will be busted.
“It’s up to the magistrates on this court. If you want to spend a couple hundred thousand this year, next year and the year after that, the road fund will go broke.”