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County to get legal opinion on road abandonment

More research needed

March 5, 2013
By Michael Tidemann - Staff Writer , Estherville Daily News

It's one thing to build a road, and the Emmet County Board of Supervisors Tuesday learned it's quite another to get rid of one.

County engineer Roger Patocka relayed county attorney Doug Hansen's recommendation that the county find an attorney specializing in road abandonment. That recommendation likely stemmed in no small part from Hansen's opinion that if the county merely closes a road there remain liability issues. "It could potentially limit access to the confinement in the middle of the section," said Patocka, referred to a confinement Mike Daggett had planned on 500th Avenue three miles south of Maple Hill.

Board chair Alan Madden also noted that Hansen's opinion was that the county was not legally required to upgrade the road. He also questioned if the roadway, if abandoned, would be worth $10,000 an acre since landowners would have the expense of reclamation. Madden said dirt roads in fact have a negative value to the county and are more of a liability than anything.

Supervisor Jon Martyr maintained too that the county was not committed to upgrade for one entity. "It's probably unlawful for us to do it as well," Martyr said.

Martyr further said lawmakers years ago had apparently intended that roads remain as public domain and not be vacated. And when roads are vacated, counties lose state and federal money. He said it would probably be better to have a Class C road and put a chain across it. "Once it's gone you're never going to get it back . . . or you're going to have to pay dearly for it," Martyr said.

"I felt a strong warning (from area residents) that we do not improve the road for a hog confinement," said supervisor Tim Schumacher.

Supervisor Ron Smith asked nearby landowner David Berven if he was interesting in buying the part of the roadway adjacent to his land. Berven noted the cost of reclamation should be figured into the appraisal value.

Madden said the board needed to find someone to appraise the property, the cost of reclamation and when it could be done. He also said he could contact other boards of supervisors to see how they've handled similar situations.

"In southern Iowa I know that they're grinding up roads and putting them back to gravel," Madden said.

Smith said the county should notify the five landowners with property adjacent to 500th Avenue that the county was considering abandoning the road.



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