McLean County Fiscal Court proposed an ordinance in its regular meeting last Wednesday that would allow the county to help repair culverts for individual property owners, should the culvert create hazardous roadways. The only stipulation, according to Judge-Executive Curtis Dame, is a lien would be placed against the landowner’s property.
The proposed ordinance, Dame said, would help the county repair roadways in a more timely manner without creating a financial hardship for landowners who are required by state laws to maintain property that might cause roadway hazards, specifically culverts, which are water drains that run beneath roadways.
However, while the county would be able to have culverts repaired or maintained for landowners under the proposed ordinance, they are legally required to place a lien against the owner’s property, which would grant the county possession or rights to a property should it be sold or refinanced, according to County Attorney Donna Dant. The lien would exist against the property until repaid in full with a 12% interest added each year. Dant said the court has the authority to waive the interest if the owner is suffering from financial hardship.
“If you’re talking about hardship, the county’s protected and they have a lien, so you don’t necessarily have to collect at that time if the lien exists … if the property’s ever sold or if they go to refinance, at that time, that lien is caught and, theoretically, you’re paid at that time,” Dant said.
Magistrate Matt Hayden expressed concerns over whether requiring landowners to pay for culvert repairs and construction would put them in a difficult financial situation.
“If we mandate that the landowner be responsible for … construction, then in the case where the person or entity is not feasibly capable of absorbing that cost, we’re creating a hardship on them,” he said.
Dame said he understood the issue it might pose, but the county has to repair hazardous roadways,and if troublesome culverts are not repaired as well, then the problem will persist and the same roads will have to be repaired again.
“If we have an individual on a road project — like East Harmons Ferry, which we’re getting ready to spend $300,000 roughly — we fix everything, we widen the roads … but if we have one individual that doesn’t fix their culvert, what’s the point in fixing the road if it doesn’t fix the problems long-term,” he said.
While Magistrate Clay Troutman said it was not fair for the county to ask landowners to fix a problem that affect county roads, Dame said it is a state law and the county is required to follow state legislation.
“I’m all for the county replacing a culvert if someone can’t do it. The bad thing is, that is not legal and we can’t do that,” he said.
The court passed the first reading of the proposed ordinance with intent to develop a policy for the second reading that would allow landowners to file a grievance with the court should the county mandate property maintenance or repairs. However, McLean County Fiscal Court Clerk Wendy Clark later said the first reading would actually take place at the next fiscal court meeting on Feb. 26 since the ordinance was not read aloud in court in the Feb. 12 meeting.