Private Roads

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Longtime topic of private roads gets debated again

By Billy Davis

Panola County supervisors have been hearing constituents plead for decades to improve private roads in the county, and the issue surfaced again at Monday’s First District meeting.

District 4 Supervisor Kelly Morris asked his colleagues Monday to consider “taking in” the main thoroughfare at Enid Shores subdivision on the premise that landowners have worked to improve and maintain the community’s private roads.

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“Those folks down there need some help,” Morris said. “Can we not take those roads over to help those folks?” About 300 Panolians live in the area, he said.

Morris’ request found a mixed response around the board table. Supervisors sympathized with the ongoing problem but voiced concern about the cash-strapped road department taking in more roads.

“What kind of expense are we talking?” asked District 3 Supervisor Gary Thompson.

“Quite a bit,” replied road manager Lygunnah Bean.

Bean and supervisors agreed, however, that the no-work rule is not without some allowances. Gravel is spread on some roads and driveways for school bus turnarounds, and Bean allowed that he will likely install a pipe under an Enid Shores road in the near future to ensure traffic safety.

“That pipe will cost $5,000,” Bean said. “But it needs to be replaced for the children in the buses.”

Morris came to the First District meeting armed with a letter from a Jackson attorney regarding the plight of Enid Shores. The letter from attorney Jerry Barham was sent in April to state Rep. Warner McBride, whose District 10 area includes Enid Shores.

“The residents have been talking to me about their transportation needs, so I contacted the legislative counsel to see what came be done,” McBride said of the letter after Monday’s meeting.

McBride said his understanding of the letter is that the county can take over the private roads but those roads must be improved to county standards, which would require private contributions from the residents.

In the letter, the attorney suggests that Enid Shores residents are likely entitled to a hearing before the board of supervisors if they present a legal petition to request that the roads are added to the county road system.

Board attorney Bill McKenzie agreed with Morris that the occasional roadwork is “confusing,” but he added that he has witnessed the problem at Enid Shores for decades.

“Enid Shores declared years ago, ‘We won’t comply with your county ordinance. We’ll do it our own way,’” McKenzie said.