The Union Recorder

April 17, 2013

County sorting through private road issues

Kyle Collins
The Union-Recorder


The roads at The Preserve at Meriwether and The Oaks Subdivision are giving homeowners fits. The Baldwin County Commissioners want to fix the issue, but current options look financially grim.

District 5 citizens affected contacted Johnny Westmoreland about the lack of road patching, grass cutting and ditch maintenance in the subdivisions. These roads were never deeded over to the county by the now bankrupt developers.

“This board would actually have to vote to bring these roads into the public road system otherwise they are still private and according to state law we cannot put county personnel or expend county funds on private property,” county manager Ralph McMullen said.

The development companies put up bonds that have since expired. McMullen said the county tried to restrict the group from selling properties to private citizens without fully developed roads.

County attorney David McRee said most of this activity occurred between 2005 and 2009 before the housing market crashed. As the bubble burst, the developers dropped the projects and walked away, according to McMullen.

“It's not a situation that's unique to Baldwin County,” McRee said. “I'm sure it's a nationwide problem.”

Westmoreland said the roads were never close to being finished.

“You've got the first layer of the road down,” the district 5 commissioner said. “You don't have the finished product. That's why the people are having so many problems.”

The property right-of-ways never transferred to the county or a homeowners association.

“All of that belongs to the developer,” Westmoreland said.

McRee reminded the board they already own a number of lots in the affect subdivisions through tax sales. Sammy Hall, District 3, asked if foreclosure was an option.

“If we take in these roads, they are ours forever,” McRee said. “If you do that, you have to expend the money to bring them up to the necessary standards, and you are looking at money you don't have budgeted.” 

Westmoreland suggested sending letters explaining the sticky situation to the homeowners and holding town hall meetings. Road resurfacing costs millions of dollars the county doesn't have.  

“They don't understand what is going on,” he said. “They are upset for the simple reason they are paying taxes and nothing is being done.”

* Recreation policy fee action

Flipper Chapel is planning a free Fun Day in May. The application for recreation facility was completed, according to McMullen.

The group wanted the fee dropped from $800 down to $400. 

McMullen requested board direction considering the current application and fee reduction request. 

Tommy French, District 2, and Emily Davis, District 1, advocated for the event. Laptops, clothes and bicycles are given away during that event.

Everything is free to the public.

“It's donated so much to the citizens of Baldwin County it's really an asset for us,” French said. “I see no park detriment.”

The board agreed recreation policies must be altered to deal with special situations.

“If we've got a policy set and we are going to negotiate everything that comes up, we need to change our policy to the price is negotiable,” Westmoreland said.

The commissioners voted to make the requested exception at last year's fee of $400. 

• Development Authority Director update

The City of Milledgeville and Baldwin County Development Authority executive director Matt Poyner briefed the commission on industrial park efforts and rebranding ideas to change the perception of the entire area. 

Currently, 30 acres of the 44-acre land tract are cleared before grading begins. Project managers are coming the first week of June.

“I want them to see what we are doing and how we are being proactive because we have to show them that we are working hard too and we need jobs,” Poyner said.

The authority head also mentioned the importance of beautification projects through the Chamber's Young Professionals group and pairing up with Georgia College talent to attract big technical projects.

The board complimented the development authority's work.

• Local Vendor Preference Policy

Consultant Paul Glick is currently updating the county's 20-year-old purchasing policies. Glick agreed to add local vendor provisions in his policy draft.

Finance director Dawn Hudson said Glick would have the draft ready at an April 22 subcommittee meeting for review. At the May 7 county work session the entire purchasing policy goes before the board. 

• Proclamation for 911 center

The commissioners proclaimed April 14 through 20 to be National Public Safety Telecommunications Week in Baldwin County, in honor of the men and women whose diligence and professionalism keep out county and citizens safe.

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