Taxpayers deserve to know facts about public roadways

Published 11:45 pm Wednesday, July 12, 2017

To the people of Adams County:

Since you and I pay all costs associated with the public roadways of the county, I feel that you deserve to know the following:

  • On June 3, 2008, an individual who had recently purchased a lot on the south side of Dunbar Road (District 1) suddenly bulldozed over 300 feet of the right-of-way, taking approximately $20,000 worth of public assets (1,517 cubic yards, or 108 truckloads of soil and timber) for his own personal use as landfill. He also claimed that the right-of-way land was his to do with as he pleased. This individual made no prior contact with the county road manager, county supervisor or county engineer. No supervision, or safety precautions of any kind were arranged.
  • At the recommendation of my district supervisor, Mike Lazarus, I presented the issue to the Adams County Board of Supervisors, on Friday, June 13, 2008. The board purported in its minutes that it would investigate and determine who “owned the embankment.” After eight months had passed, when I then inquired about the status, the board abruptly voted to do nothing. It did not rescind nor revise its minutes for June 13, 2008.
  • My position then and now is that according to state law, the board should have held the perpetrator accountable and forced him to pay restitution to the county treasury, as Lazarus had told him on June 4, 2008 he was going to have to do.
  • At last Wednesday’s board meeting (July 5, 2017) Supervisor David Carter said the board was tired of “kicking the bucket down the road.” He presented a motion that the board again vote to do nothing about the issue. The motion passed unanimously.
  • In State to Use of Stanton v. Junkin, 172 Miss. 225, 159 So. 107 (Adams County, 1935), the Supreme Court of Mississippi held:

….. it is the law in this state that the public acquires the right to use the entire right of way of a highway for the public convenience or necessity… When the public acquires the right of way of a highway, they acquire all that is necessary or convenient for the public use, including trees, dirt, or other materials. This right is acquired by the law, and the board of supervisors is not required to serve notice upon the abutting property owners of this intention to cut trees for use on the highway. When the highway is abandoned, the timber rights will revert to the abutting owner unless the fee was conveyed to the county … The county, however, or the public authority, may take therefrom such timber as may be needful for the convenience of the highway, and such right is paramount in the county during the existence of the highway. (e.a.)

  • In 1974 Dunbar Road and its right-of-way were dedicated to the public. It has been used as such since that time, maintained and under the jurisdiction and control of the Adams County Board of Supervisors.
  • Lest anyone believe that the board of supervisors has the discretion to decide whether or not to allow landowners to take public assets from the right-of-way of an active, dedicated public road; Section 95 of the Mississippi Constitution states that “land belonging to, or under the control of the state, shall never be donated directly or indirectly, to private corporations or individuals, or to railroad companies” (e.a.).
  • Thus, the timber and soil on the right-of-way of an active, dedicated (i.e., public) road belong to the county, and not to adjacent landowners.

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Lynn Wirtz,  Adams County resident