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Heading up Hog Branch: Property owner registers complaint about gate on county road

By: Jeremy D. Wells
Carter County Times

County roads aren’t allowed to be gated. Even those who gate private roads, on private land, have to provide access to cemeteries on the other side of those gates, or to landowners who need a right-of-way to reach their property. But at least one property owner with land that lies along Hog Branch, a county road according to road department head Jason Carroll, said he hasn’t been able to access his property or visit a family cemetery where his parents are buried because of a gate put up by another property owner that is blocking his access. 

The property owner came to the fiscal court meeting on Monday night to ask the county to look into the gate that is blocking access to his land, He said he recently tried to reach his property with a truckload of dirt, and also attempted to access the family cemetery, and was blocked both times by the gate. He said when he approached the other property owner to request access they refused, telling him they didn’t trust anyone with the key. He said he promised to bring the key directly back, and asked if they had a second key, and though they did have a second key they still refused to grant him access to his land or the cemetery. 

County attorney Brian Bayes said the court would have to determine if the portion of the road in question was part of the county road system. He said if it was determined to be in the county road system, the road department could remove the gate. If it was not in the county road system, the property owner with land on the other side of the gate could request to have it taken into the county road system. The property owner with the gate, however, could also petition to have the road taken out of the county road system if it was determined to be in the system. Despite those issues, however, Bayes said the property owner did have to provide access to those who needed a right-of-way to access their land. They were also required to provide access to the cemetery during “reasonable hours,” generally between sun rise and sun down. 

Judge Executive Mike Malone said he would look into the road status and reach out to both property owners after doing so. 

In other action fiscal court approved the treasurer’s report and claims, and accepted department reports from the jail, emergency management, and road departments, as well as from E911 director Joe Lambert. 

Court also moved to re-appoint Jill York to the county tourism board for a period of two years. 

County clerk Mike Johnston also gave a report, noting that his department has been attempting to practice social distancing in the office, which has been working out well. He told the court he would also be replacing an awning over a walk-up window that has seen increased use since the COVID-19 crisis has led to fewer in-office visits. 

The court also discussed speed limits on unmarked county roads, specifically Damron Branch. Bayes told court he had previously prepared legislation setting a reduced speed limit on the road, but no action was ever taken to approve it. Sheriff Jeff May said any roads in the county system that were not specifically marked had a default speed limit of 55 mph. If the court moved to reduce the speed limit on Damron Branch or other roads, May said, the roads would have to have new signage put up indicating the reduced speed limit before the change could be enforced. 

Contact the writer at editor@cartercountytimes.com

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