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Residents plea for help on ‘dangerous’ road

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Families say gravel portion of Herndon Road inaccessible to fire trucks, buses, ambulances

By BEN CARLSON

A decades old fight to have the county take over maintenance of the end of Herndon Road resurfaced after residents presented a petition last Tuesday to the Anderson County Fiscal Court.
Seven families live on the 2,500-foot stretch of narrow, rutted road that they say exposes their children to dangerous conditions and is inaccessible to fire trucks and ambulances.
“School kids have to walk three-quarters of a mile to catch a school bus,” said resident Sheila Smith, who presented the petition. “In the winter it’s very dangerous because they have to climb an embankment if someone is driving on the road.
“There is also no adequate access for emergency vehicles because they can’t even find the place with GPS.”
Smith pointed to a statute she says makes the stretch of road a public road because it has been used by the public for at least 15 continuous years.
Judge-Executive John Wayne Conway said it may be a public road, but that’s not the same as being a county maintained road. He said there are approximately 120 miles of similar roads in Anderson County, and there is simply no way the fiscal court can take over their maintenance.
“If that’s the truth, we might as well start raising taxes right now,” Conway said in response to Smith’s comments. “If we take over one, we’ll have to take over 120 miles of these roads.”
Smith recalled an incident in 2012 when a resident fell victim to a heart attack. She said an ambulance couldn’t find his residence and that her husband, Jack, eventually had to walk to the maintained portion of Herndon Road to meet the ambulance.
She said he had to do the same thing when the coroner arrived.
“Another person had a heart attack and was afraid to call 911 because it was quicker to have his wife drive him to the hospital,” she said.
Brian Boggs, an Anderson County Sheriff’s deputy who lives on the road, said because it is inaccessible to school buses, his daughter has to walk past the homes of “two sexual predators” and that during bad weather he is forced to park his cruiser at a location on the maintained portion of the road so he can get out quickly if needed.
“The road is getting worse and it’s no joke,” Boggs told magistrates.
“Is it going to take a child getting hit on that road?” asked Sheila Smith. “We can do better than that.”
Their pleas have been made before, according to resident Jack Smith, who said the effort to get the county to maintain the road has been going on for 25 years.
“We’ve been patient,” he said before suggesting that the fiscal court set parameters on how many homes must be on a stretch of road before the county takes over maintenance or make the decision based on combined property values.
Magistrate Buddy Sims questioned if the road would meet the fiscal court’s gravel road specifications before it was revealed no such specifications actually exist.
Drafted and approved on first reading in 2006, the specifications were never approved on a required second public reading due to a change in administrations, according to County Attorney Bobbi Jo Lewis.
Other groups lobbying the fiscal court, including property owners in Mallard Cove, have been told for years that those specifications were in place.
Conway said there would be no way residents could have afforded to bring the road to those specifications, anyway, and asked Magistrate David Montgomery, who represents that area, what he wants to do.
“I say we do it,” said Montgomery.
Conway then pointed to the county’s transportation committee, which includes Sims and Magistrate Forest Dale Stevens, who agreed to re-examine the gravel road specs and work to make a suggestion to the fiscal court on how to proceed.
Conway said no timetable has been set on when those decisions could be reached.