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County development grant to help service Garnersville Road

Crenshaw County Engineer Benjamin Sanders reviews aerial shots of Garnersville Road, just south of Highland Home. The project has been approved since February 2015, yet has been delayed due to right-of-way acquisition (Photo by Shayla Terry).

Crenshaw County Engineer Benjamin Sanders reviews aerial shots of Garnersville Road, just south of Highland Home. The project has been approved since February 2015, yet has been delayed due to right-of-way acquisition (Photo by Shayla Terry).

By: Shayla Terry

In February 2015, Crenshaw County was approved for a Community Development and Block Grant through the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs. Though approved to begin working, the project has been stalled.

The grant, valued at $350,000, will be used to service Garnersville Road. From the grant, Garnersville Road, located just south of Highland Home, would gain fire hydrants, relocation and upgrades in water lines, and the pavement of 1.6 miles of the road.

“To do that, we have to acquire land from the property owners for the right-of-way,” said Crenshaw County Engineer Benjamin Sanders.

“We have to have adequate room for the road.”

The right-of-way is the land needed to make a road. As required by the state of Alabama, right-of-ways must be 80 feet wide. Currently, Garnersville’s dirt road is short of the requirement. To make the requirement, land would need to be given by property owners.

Sanders says the road can not simply be paved as is.

“We wouldn’t have room for the utilities to be adequately placed,” he said.

“Drainage is very important to the life of a road. We need proper drainage, which means wider, deeper ditches and bigger pipes. When you start improving the drainage, you have to have more room to work.”

Yet of the 31 tracks of land that must be acquired, fewer than 10 have been obtained. Some property owners have donated their land for the cause, while the remainders have been offered a settlement.

“The settlement offer is based on a tax assessment,” Crenshaw County Commission Chairman Charlie Sankey, Jr. said.

“It’s based on what the property owners pay taxes on.”

A large number of the owners of the tracks do not live on Garnersville Road, or even in Crenshaw County.

“We didn’t foresee that obtaining the right-of-way would be an issue until we started digging into the ownership of the land needed,” Sankey said.

“In addition to it being owned by a lot of people that don’t live on the road, there were a few estates. This mean it’s heir property that has few too many legs of heirs attached to it.”

At the loss of some property, property owners still stand to gain many improvements to their residency.

“I think Crenshaw County residents, for the most part, want the road paved, because it does so much,” Sankey said.

“The fire hydrants could possibly cause home owner insurance to decrease. The six inch water lines are going to give more adequate water pressure.”

If the acquisition of land is not settled, the county will exercise eminent domain. Eminent domain is the power of the government to take private property and convert it to public use for a settlement; eminent domain means that the county will go to court for the property.

“We haven’t gotten to that stage yet,” Sanders said.

“We’re still trying to work through it.”

Until then, advancements with construction have been stalled. Crenshaw County cannot apply for another community development and block grant until the completion of the Garnersville Road project.

“It just one of those things you don’t expect to run into when you’re trying to help the citizens better their lives,” Sankey said.

The County’s Attorney Levi Nichols is working closely with Sanders and the commission to settle with property owners, so that construction may begin on the project.