September 9, 2015

County debates road serving single landowner

By Daniel Arens

Although all county roads are, obviously, under the county’s jurisdiction, the question of how best to allocate funds for road projects is still debatable. Recently, the Mercer County Commission has had to address the issue of a road owned by the county which nevertheless only provides road access for a single family.
The landowner in question, Ron Isaak, had asked for the county to fix a creek crossing on the frontage road that leads to his property, which has washed out in several flooding events. The county agreed that something should be done, but felt that a cost-share agreement between the landowner and the commission would be the best way to handle the situation.
The commission’s argument stemmed from the fact that the repair would only benefit Isaak, not the county in general, and that county funds would be more properly distributed to other projects that would impact a wider public. For his part, Isaak maintained that, because the road is legally owned by the county, he should not have to shoulder any of the cost.
The county has already done a portion of the road work, but would need to add further funds in order to implement a more lasting fix to the creek flooding.
Commissioner Wayne Entze stressed the need for a permanent solution one way or the other, saying that “a temporary fix comes back to haunt us.” The commission agreed, but felt that further action beyond the minimum work should be done under a cost-share agreement.
Isaak pointed out that the road is completely impassable during floods, as the road washes out, and that small temporary fixes means more cost and hassle in the future. He insisted that the road was the county’s responsibility, and he shouldn’t have to pay anything for repairs.
Commissioner Wes Gunsch feared that having the county repair the road would set a precedent for other landowners to look to the county for small repairs that would not benefit the larger public and would divert attention away from more serious county concerns. Isaak countered that his agreeing to a cost-share agreement would mean a precedent would be set for him having to contribute to any future repairs on the road.

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