In response to public outcry after heavy summer rains made many dirt roads impassable, Bay County commissioners will consider a proposal to authorize public work on private property.
The board is expected to decide whether emergency situations warrant an exception to existing policy when they meet Tuesday.
In September, washouts and flooding made navigating private roads in the Panama Pines subdivision in Bayou George difficult. A group of citizens later met with county officials and urged them to do something about the problem because, they said, the property owner had failed to maintain the roads as promised.
Commissioner George Gainer said school buses, ambulances, fire trucks and police vehicles should be able to travel roads at all times, even if they are private. "We have got to take the responsibility of our people," Gainer said. "We've got to make these roads passable, if just long enough to get everybody out of there."
The ordinance would authorize the Chief of Emergency Services to determine whether damage to a private road creates an emergency and order temporary repairs. According to meeting documents, repairs would include filling "serious" potholes and washouts but not repairs to entire roadways. The cost of the repairs would be passed to the property owner of the road or the individuals that benefit from the county work.
Commissioner Mike Thomas said people living on private roads should be responsible for maintenance and repairs. "I don't think that's part of the county's business," Thomas said. "People choose where they live and if you live on a road in that kind of condition, I think you knew that when you went down there."
Thomas sees potential problems in collecting payments after repairs are made. "I'm not sure that we wouldn't spend more money on attorneys trying to figure out how to make people pay," Thomas said.
Gainer agrees that getting citizens to pay for the work could be difficult, but said public safety is more important. "I would hope that these temporary repairs would be so minor that would not be a big factor," Gainer said. "I'm not proposing that we go in and spend a lot of money."
The commission meeting is scheduled for 9:00 a.m. Tuesday at the Bay County Government Center.