More than a month ago, residents of Beulah Road complained to the Liberty County Commission about the poor condition of the street, which they say sometimes prevents them from getting to and from their homes.
At the last meeting, District 1 Commissioner Marion Stevens promised to look into it, but couldn’t make any decisions on the board’s behalf since the road is private and therefore not the county’s responsibility.
Just days after the commissioners’ January meeting, county engineer Trent Long of T.R. Long Engineering, P.C. looked at the road and said he knew it wouldn’t be an easy fix.
“The roadway out there is in really bad shape,” Long told commissioners during Thursday’s meeting. “Basically, the road is the drainage ditch … the issue becomes that this is a subdivision that was established years ago as a private subdivision to be privately maintained and not to be maintained by Liberty County.”
Long presented three options to the board: uphold the decision of previous board members by keeping the road private; the county takes over and makes improvements and maintains the roadway system; or the county could grade the roadway but not make any other improvements except for the installation of fill material in the low areas.
Board members said the first one left no hope for residents. The second option likely would be costly and would require close examination. The third choice would “not solve the issues raised by the residents,” according to Long’s document.
The road, which connects to Islands Highway in Midway, was considered a private road and was supposed to be maintained by the developer and individual property owners, County Administrator Joey Brown said at the last commission meeting. Because a proper drainage system and other road maintenance had not been put in place, the road has become a washed out puddle of mud when it rains, residents said.
“We will start preparing paperwork so that a designated representative of the group can visit all residents concerning the possibility of turning the road over for county maintenance,” Brown said of the next steps. “I anticipate the material will include an original plat of the subdivision, which shows the easement area, an agreement to relocate any impediments in those areas at no expense to the county and a sheet that explains how the improvement process might occur if approved by the board of commissioners.”
At Thursday’s meeting, County Attorney Kelly Davis told seven Beulah subdivision residents that he would closely examine legal documents pertaining to the road and look for ways the county may be able to help. Davis also mentioned that the residents may want to consider legal action against the developer.
Although Davis said the county has no obligation to take over the road, the attorney told the board members that if they want to help out, it would be handled like any other roadway project. Easements must be granted to the county before any steps can be taken and Davis agreed to help draw up a petition for interested residents to take around the neighborhood to get the signatures necessary to grant the county access to private properties.
“I think you could select and choose to what extent you want to improve the drainage interest,” Davis told the commissioners.
The subdivision is owned by E.R. “Bobby” Collins, according to a county plat document, but residents claim that calls placed to the developer have been unreturned, creating further frustration for the property owners who live along what they call the “dam” road.
“He’s as obligated as the owners,” Beulah Road resident Ronda Durney said of Collins. “There is no way to maintain the road — there is no road.”
Durney said a few weeks ago the rains washed out the dirt road so badly that she had to walk two miles to her daughter’s house to borrow a car to go to an appointment.
If residents agree to give up pieces of property for the easements for proper drainage, Brown said the board will re-examine the issue for final consideration.
“Once the issue is approved, and assuming funding is readily available, then construction would begin,” Brown said. “It’s very difficult at this point to peg a period since the first bridge of total property owner agreement has not even been crossed.”