Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Who's Responsible for Roads? Rules Change over the Years

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Who's Responsible for Roads? Rules Change over the Years

Article excerpt

GREEN COVE SPRINGS -- In the old days, a Clay County resident

whose driveway washed out could call a county commissioner, seek

help from county public works crews and likely get it.

That was the way things worked.

But that was before anyone questioned whether maintenance of

privately owned roads was an appropriate use of public funds.

That was before government attorneys decided that it was not.

Now, the County Commission, its attorney and public works

department have to figure out how to deal with road maintenance

requests from residents on private roads who can prove county

work crews have maintained their roads in the past.

Recently, such requests have come from property owners in the

High Ridge Estates area near Keystone Heights and in the

Governor's Harbor area near Green Cove Springs. Those requests,

which are currently being reviewed by the county's

administrative staff, led the commission to discuss the issue at

Tuesday's board meeting.

"There was a precedent," said Commissioner Charles R. "Buddy"

Griffin. "These roads had been [county] maintained for a number

of years . . . At the time it was appropriate and proper for us

to go do that road. And now people need it, they are finding it

hard to get home."

But it is no longer proper, said County Attorney Mark Scruby.

"In a former era, perhaps this was thought of as a public

service, that a constituent might call a commissioner and say,

`Can I have the help of the road department.' No one thought

anything about it," he said.

But current county policy and rulings from the state Attorney

General's Office require that the county have a "legitimate

interest" in a road before work can be authorized, he said.

"The staff believes very strongly in not borrowing trouble,"

Scruby said. "In the absence of some [legal] claim, you really

cannot say the county has sufficient underlying authority to go

out and do maintenance [on private roads]."

Some leeway exists in cases of public emergency, where road

grading or other maintenance is necessary to get "an essential

service" such as a fire truck to a particular area, he said. …

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