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Morrison for public road adoption

Posted on Friday, March 8, 2024 at 10:00 am

LACIE SILVA

Editor

 

A long standing issue in the Northern region of Marion County was brought to the Marion County Commissioner (MCC) board when Commissioner Chris Morrison asked the board to adopt the currently unmaintained public road officially named Brow Trail Road.

Commissioner Morrison provided background information on discussions that began over a year ago regarding updates needed for Brow Trail Road. He also highlighted that the road is commonly called Big Fort Road, which it also merges into, but that the official name is Brow Trail Road.

These two named roads currently serve as an extension, connecting to Suck Creek Road and US 127 in Sequatchie County. He mentioned that Attorney William Gouger Jr. has been actively involved, working in coordination with him to contact multiple property owners along Brow Trail Road, who are dispersed across the US.

Additionally, he explained that Suck Creek Road sees significant traffic, with an estimated 3,000 to 5,000 vehicles traveling on it daily. This road serves as a crucial link for the northern parts of Marion County and southern parts of Sequatchie and Grundy County where the borders meet. Furthermore, he emphasized that Suck Creek Road has been in use for over 100 years, highlighting its longstanding importance in connecting all three counties.

The commissioner described several resolutions sent to the Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) for assistance, with fellow commissioners aiding in passing several resolutions. Such resolutions pertained to issues concerning trees, turning lanes, and shoulder work. Commissioner Morrison noted that, in general, no more than one month elapses before the road requires closure for maintenance due to its significant use. He highlighted a recent closure resulting from a fatality incident. Along this stretch of road, residents between the connections have only one route in or out of the area. Consequently, when Suck Creek Road is closed, it poses a liability, cutting them off and leaving them stranded. He recounted other significant closures in the 1980s due to flooding, which lasted for several months and created considerable hardship for residents. Detours during these closures could range from 12 to 30 miles, depending on the starting location and intended destination. He emphasized that currently, there is no alternative route available, depriving them of emergency services.

A 1.7-mile stretch of the public, unmaintained Brow Trail Road lies within Marion County, Commissioner Morrison highlighted, stressing his primary concern for the residents’ well-being. He emphasized that his request was not solely based on developmental purposes or property values. He proposed starting by adopting the public road as a county road, aiming to provide future options for action. Additionally, he suggested renaming the stretch to Big Fort Road to streamline its identification and alleviate potential confusion. He concluded by urging the commissioner board to adopt the public road as a county road and to approve the name change, emphasizing the long-term benefits for the county.

Commissioner Donald Blansett motioned to approve the request, which was seconded by Commissioner Morrison, prompting several other commissioners to request time for follow-up questions.

Commissioner Jimmy Cantrell expressed a desire to hear from Corey Pickett, Superintendent of the Marion County Highway Department. Pickett addressed the board and informed Commissioner Morrison that the road would need to meet several specifications.

 

  • Must be two-tenths of a mile long
  • Two permanent separate occupied dwellings along the road
  • At least one occupant residing in the residence must be requesting the change
  • Must have 50 feet of right of way leading into Marion County
  • Must have proper drainage lines and styles
  • Must have 18 feet wide driver brace with minimum four inch depth

 

Commissioner Morrison highlighted that the board could not improve the road to meet any standards without first claiming ownership of it. He also emphasized that the road would not naturally evolve to meet the required specifications on its own and would require the board to improve it.

Attorney Gouger clarified that legally, no governing body can allocate funds, resources, or labor to any property not owned by the county. He elaborated on the process, explaining that they had sent out over 30 deeds of dedication, of which more than half had been signed and returned. One property owner, currently residing in Colorado, was among those who had returned the signed deed. He mentioned that while he had spoken to several other property owners along the road, not all signatures had been received yet. However, none of the involved individuals had refused to sign. He highlighted the challenges of the process, particularly with property owners living out of state and difficulties in tracking down original records, some of which dated back to the 1960s and were still under the names of deceased property owners. Attorney Gouger emphasized that the first step in any expenditure or funding initiative was to acquire the deeds of dedication for ownership of the road.

Commissioners, Attorney Gouger, and Corey Pickett all concurred on the necessity of the process and the steps involved. Pickett added that they could not proceed with any work unless the road met the specifications he had previously outlined.

Commissioner Dennis Rollins addressed an incident in his district that occurred two weeks before the meeting involving a truck. He presented a hypothetical scenario, suggesting that if someone required emergency medical services, this road could offer an alternative route that is currently unavailable.

Attorney Gouger explained the process, which involves obtaining the deeds of dedication as the first step. Secondly, the county road superintendent would need to recommend to the MCC that the road be included on the list of county roads. He clarified that this recommendation does not obligate Pickett to pave the road but simply to propose its addition to the list. The third step involves the MCC approving the recommendation.

Commissioner Morrison sought clarification on whether the road could be added even if it did not meet Pickett’s specifications, just to facilitate the process of updating it. Attorney Gouger emphasized the need to acquire the deeds of dedication first, while Corey Pickett indicated that substantial work would be required to meet the specifications. Pickett also clarified to the commissioners that their team members are not builders and are only capable of maintaining roads. In response, Commissioner Morrison expressed frustration and questioned whether they would continue to engage in this back-and-forth indefinitely rather than reaching an agreement to assist the citizens of the county.

Commissioner Steven Franklin intervened, noting that the process had been ongoing for over three years and was initiated during the tenure of the previous superintendent. He emphasized that all agreements from property owners must be signed before the board can proceed and expressed concern about potential legal liability if proper procedures were not followed. Commissioner Franklin reiterated his belief in the necessity of the road as an alternate route but emphasized the importance of adhering to legal requirements and avoiding any violations.

Commissioner Morrison suggested exploring alternative options if some deeds of dedication could not be obtained or if property owners refused to sign. Chairwoman Linda Mason then requested Attorney Gouger to elaborate on potential courses of action. Attorney Gouger clarified that seizing the property through eminent domain would be the sole option in such circumstances.

In response, Pickett reiterated that he would be content if the road met their maintenance specifications. Chairwoman Mason proposed that if the deeds of dedication could be acquired, the board could contract a road building company to complete the necessary work as outlined by Pickett.

Commissioner Morrison reiterated that they could not allocate funds for a contract concerning property they did not own. Chairwoman Mason acknowledged this point and stressed the importance of making progress with the deeds of dedication. She stated that if they could not obtain the necessary deeds, the board would need to make a decision regarding their next steps.

Commissioner Blansett proposed forming a committee to explore the costs associated with road construction, monitor progress on acquiring deeds of dedication, and ensure the issue is pursued until resolved. Commissioner Paul Schafer seconded the motion, which was unanimously approved by the board.

Chairwoman Mason requested volunteers for the committee and emphasized the importance of including representatives from the fourth and fifth districts, with particular emphasis on the fifth district due to its specific relevance. Commissioners Schafer and Abbott volunteered to join the committee, representing the respective districts. They will be responsible for overseeing the progress and ensuring the issue is pursued until resolved. Attorney Gouger offered to meet with the committee at a convenient time for all members to provide updates on the progress and current statuses of the various aspects of the project.

The Marion Tribune – March 7, 2024