Local man stands up for  what he believes

Published 12:01 am Sunday, July 2, 2017

Adams County resident Lynn Wirtz says his wife might be correct when she says her husband is “just too damned noble.”

Wirtz, a retired chemical engineer who spent the bulk of his career at the former International Paper Natchez mill, is fighting a one-man, nine-year battle to prove a point about some trees and dirt.

Think of him as a modern day Don Quixote of sorts, battling a wrong he believes was committed against the public good.

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He’s bound and determined to make it right in his mind or fight as long as he has fight in him.

Wirtz hardly looks the part of a warrior.

The 86-year-old has a slight build, baldhead fringed with gray hair and a silver goatee.

But make no mistake the man has been fighting against what he believes is a system of county apathy for nearly a decade.

His weapons are an insistence that the public was wronged and reams upon reams of documents, legal references and court cases that he believes support his case.

To simply discount him as a grumpy old man, who is angry with his neighbor would not be fair.

Wirtz comes across as quite polite and incredibly intelligent. He can spout off dates of meetings or discussions with various supervisors and attorneys. He’s equally adept at referencing prior court cases as precedent.

His entire beef stems from a June 2008 incident in which his Dunbar Road neighbor apparently took it upon himself to bulldoze an approximately 300-foot section of the right-of-way.

Wirtz contends the neighbor did not own the right-of-way in front of his house.

That ownership or lack thereof is the crux of Wirtz’s official warpath.

If, as Wirtz attests, the county owns the right-of-way in question, then the removal of trees and dirt is tantamount to theft.

Wirtz says all he wants — after nine years of memo and affidavit writing and thousands of dollars of his personal funds spent — is for the neighbor to simply repay the county’s general fund for the value of what Wirtz believes was taken.

Interestingly, after more than nine years of back and forth, the Adams County Board of Supervisors appears to be poised to finally and officially answer Wirtz’s claims soon.

They’re considering a vote this week on a resolution that would politely and loquaciously say that the county plans to take no official action on the matter.

Although hopeful he can sway at least three supervisors — enough to officially side with him — Wirtz seems to know the odds are against him.

Still, he vows to continue as long as he has the personal money to fight the fight. All the way to the Mississippi Supreme Court if necessary, he contends.

He says the issue has already cost him approximately $20,000 in personal funds to consult attorneys and do research. It’s approximately the same amount of money Wirtz estimates the neighbor owes the county’s general fund for the dirt and trees that were removed.

Both Wirtz and the county’s legal team can convince a reasonably intelligent person that their position is best and legally sound.

Of course, that’s the problem with state law. The law’s Swiss cheese like texture gives lots of escape routes for an attorney wishing to argue a point.

At the end of the day, the trees and dirt that were removed probably didn’t harm anything. Even Wirtz would probably agree to that, but that’s not the point. The point is that he feels someone wronged the public good and plans to stop at nothing until he’s either proven correct or flatly defeated by the highest authority in the state.

Something about the matter is a bit heartwarming, perhaps it’s that the ultimate showdown may occur just after this year’s Independence Day. Or perhaps it’s just the attraction of such an underdog story.

Either way, it’s one of the great things about our country that a man who has a grievance — even one who may be “too damned noble” — is free to air that grievance.

Kevin Cooper is publisher of The Natchez Democrat. He can be reached at 601-445-3539 or kevin.cooper@natchezdemocrat.com.