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County to reconsider upkeep of Dubois road
Aug 19, 2013 - By Eric Blom, Staff Writer
Officials say Kingfisher Road's right of way is too narrow for the transportation department to accept for maintenance.
A group of 12 Dubois area residents again asked the Fremont County Commission on Aug. 6 to maintain Kingfisher Road.
The road intersects U.S. Highway 26/287 about two miles southeast of Dubois and provides access to the Painted Hills and Riverside Acres subdivisions.
The county had maintained the road until earlier this summer. Commissioners decided it was not a county road and the road's right of way was too narrow for the county to accept for maintenance.
On April 2, the county board voted to send a letter to residents on the road saying the county will stop maintaining it by July 1 unless landowners agree to sell the county a sufficient additional easement to widen the right of way.
At the meeting Aug. 6, county transportation superintendent Dave Pendleton said his department did not have time before July 1 to perform a last treatment on the road. A roads crew applied magnesium chloride after the deadline date and said they would not maintain the road further.
Residents at the meeting questioned why the county stopped maintaining the road and asserted that commissioners had accepted Kingfisher Road as a county road.
Homeowner Dean Sersland said the county had maintained the road for 41 years, and throughout that time, commissioners agreed it was a county road.
During the meeting, Sersland quoted a replat of Kingfisher Road that was signed by the Fremont County Commission in 1969.
"We do hereby dedicate for the public use forever the county road as thereon shown," Sersland read.
According to Wyoming law, the statement is not enough to establish a county road.
"Acceptance of a plat regardless of public or private right of ways does not constitute Fremont County accepting the roads," county planner Ray Price said. "That has to be done by a separate resolution, and that's set forth in state statute."
Sersland thought regardless of the law, the county has a responsibility to take of the road.
"All of us were sold our homes saying this is a county road," he said. "To me there has to be a little be of honor in society."
Right-of-way width issue
The first issue preventing the county from taking over the road is its width.
The road right of way is 33 feet wide and runs north-south. West of the road is a 17-foot public access right of way, and west of that is a 58-foot utility and drainage easement.
Though the road is a right of way for public access, it is not a right of way for a county road.
The total right of way for public access along Kingfisher Road is 50 feet. The county usually only accepts roads for maintenance if they have a 60-foot public access right of way, but exceptions exist.
A .1-mile portion of the road between the highway and across the Wind River has been accepted as a county road because it has a 50-foot-wide right of way.
In addition to the narrow width, several power line poles and a drainage ditch are in the 17-foot adjacent public access, effectively making it unusable for maintenance.
"Whose responsibility is it to move the power poles and the drainage ditch outside the 17-foot right of way?" resident Gary Shivlak asked.
The company that owns the power poles told him it would cost $22,000 to $29,000 to move them, he said.
"The moving of the power poles and the drainage ditch would be the responsibility of the developer, of Painted Hills," Price said, referring to one of the subdivisions on Kingfisher Road.
Fremont County deputy attorney Jodi Darrough said private landowners would have to sue the developer to have the obstacles moved.
"It seems the crux of this is the cost of cleaning out that 17-foot easement," commissioner Stephanie Kessler said. "If this was brought up to county standards, the maintenance would be a possibility."
Even if the obstructions were out of the way, the road might not meet county standards.
"I'm not averse to taking that as a county road, but I want an adequate right-of-way," Thompson said. "That's a difficult thing to accept less than 60, and it sets a precedent."
When the commission accepts a road with fewer than 60 feet of right-of-way, he said, it relies on the recommendations of its transportation department.
Pendleton said adding a 10-foot easement on the east side of Kingfisher Road would not require moving underground powerlines and fiber optic cable, as some residents had feared.
The 10 feet would allow the transportation department to put a proper crown on the road, allowing it to drain properly and prevent potholes from forming.
Thompson said the commission could not make a decision yet but would investigate options for moving the ditch and power poles.