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Thursday, July 30, 2009

Iron Bridge Road, Sand Hill Roads, New Fences, and Dead Dog Create Marathon Meeting for County Commissioners

Our Commissioners earned their pay on Tuesday
By Sid Riley

Tuesday was a day our County Commissioners will probably remember for a while. It was a marathon workday which began early that morning with a steady stream of scheduled meetings with county department heads as they reviewed each element of their departmental budgets in a continuing quest for savings. This is a negative process, often filled with conflict and disagreement. A full day of it makes for a stressful day.

After a full, day long agenda of this activity, at 6:00 PM the regular bi-monthly meeting of the Commission began. It turned out to be a stress filled, marathon of arguments, discussion, and decision making. When the closing gavel was sounded at 9:45 by Chairman Jeremy Branch, everyone sighed a breath of relief and staggered from the meeting room to a waiting warm bed at home.

Although a long agenda of regular business was conducted, there were three agenda items which developed into long, multi speaker, arguments before the Board. These items involved….Iron Bridges….Sand Hill Roads…New Fences...and A Dead Dog.

Sand Hill Roads:
“There is a reason they call that area of Jackson County the ‘Sand Hills’, I am afraid if you choose to live in that area, sandy roads will be a fact of life”, was one comment from Board Chairman Jeremy Branch. This comment came after numerous residents of Silver Lake South and Silver Lake North told tales of foot deep sand in the roadways, getting stuck as they attempted to reach their homes, and of sand spoiling the lakes as it washed from roadways.

There are plans underway to chipseal the entrance road into Silver Lake South, which is Lake Drive, a step which may ease the problems somewhat. All of the residents were very understanding and appreciative of the efforts put forth by the County to maintain their roads, they just wanted to be sure the Commission was aware of the depth of the problem. All agreed that maintaining the pristine beauty of these natural lakes was a first priority.

Iron Bridge Road:
Major property owners along Iron Bridge Road had entered a request to the Commission for the closure of the road. This is one of the oldest roads in Jackson County, but has been circumvented by Highway 73 in modern times. Of course some residents still live in the area and use this road as an optional route. This was the public hearing on this matter.

“Sex, dope, drinking, trash, and occasional hunting”, stated one property owner. “If you really want to know what uses the road has…that is the story. The road should be closed and a lot of county money will be saved”.

“The road has been there all of my life”, stated several well aged residents. “If a big storm came and a tree fell over the main route out of there, with this road gone we would be trapped with no escape”, stated one concerned area resident.

Thus the arguments continued back and forth as numerous involved citizens spoke their opinions before the panel. Finally, a vote was taken. The closure of the road was denied. Iron Bridge Road remains open….for now.

New Fence:
This subject involved a growing dispute between two groups of property owners in Cypress. The problem is at the end of Main Street, which dissolves into a dirt road, and then a trail. The basic area of dispute is the definition of where County maintenance has ended over the history of the road, because the point of where maintenance ends is where the right-of-way ends and private property begins.

For decades several families who reside in that area have used that route as an access to their properties which abut the road. Within the past few years a new property owner, Mark Justice, has purchased the property at the point where the road apparently ends. He desired to put a privacy fence around his property, which included crossing Main Street at what he deemed to be its ending point.

This unannounced action suddenly blocked access for the property owners who live and farm further down this route. Thus the dispute.

After a long, multi speaker period of arguing, the Commission passed a ruling which requires removal of the fence…..if it is on the right-of-way of the road. The decision of determining exactly where the prior county maintenance ended was awarded to Al Green, head of Roads and Bridges, and the County Engineer, Larry Alvarez. Wait and watch for their decision.

Dead Dog:
How would you like to leave on a trip out of the area after making arrangements with family members to feed and water your two valuable hunting breed puppies which you keep in a properly made pen in your back yard? When you return a week later you find a note inside the screen of your front door which says the Jackson County Animal Control Officers have taken your dogs because of lack of proper care.

Then when you rush to the County offices for this function you are told one of your dogs was just euthanized, and the other one is still alive and you can take it home. Also you are handed a bill for $198.32 for fines you owe and the cost for the county collecting and keeping the dogs.

That was the situation described by county resident Tony James, as he entered a claim against the county of $1500 for “killing his puppy”. He had his small son standing at the podium with him as he made his passionate plea to the weary Commissioners. “It is a violation of my property rights for the county to come on my property, take my puppies away, and then kill one of them, while I am away from home”, he stated. “It’s Wrong! It’s just Wrong!,” he exclaimed repeatedly. “The boy feeding my dogs never went in the front door, so no one saw your note.”

Chuck Hatcher, who is in charge of the Animal Control department then related the other side of the story. He told how county EMS workers including Chief Wesley had contacted their department expressing concern about the safety of these animals which they had noticed while in the area of the home. There was a heavy, all day rain in process and there was fear they were about to drown in the flooded pen.

The control officers made repeated attempts to contact an owner, returning repeatedly to the site, and leaving notes in the front door. They even waited until 6:00 pm, incurring two hours of overtime as they attempted to find an owner. Finally they took the dogs, again leaving a note about their action at the front door. Five days passed, and policy is to kill the animal if there is no progress in locating an owner after that time. If there is any hope that an owner will come forward, no action is taken. Thus the first dog was killed after the five days passed.

The next day, Mr. James appeared and wanted his dogs.

“It was all just an unfortunate series of events”, stated Commissioner Lockey. “However, it appears that our Animal Control Officers properly followed our established policies, and thus did nothing wrong”. The Board then voted unanimously to deny the request made by Mr. James.

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