Red Willow County commissioners abandoned, on a 2-1 vote Monday morning, the entire length of the rural Indianola road that's been a major irritation for a year now.
Commissioner Steve Dow-ner cast the lone vote to retain Road 221, in existence since 1889, insisting, "There are roads like this all over the county, and people get along. I can't see one landowner forcing a county to close a road."
Landowners Stan Quigley on the north and Phil Bamesberger on the south started fighting over the mile-long road and its right-of-way when Bamesberger, in early 2008, bought the land that Quigley had previously rented and started to build a new fence on what he thought was his property line on the section line.
The road is just south of the section line and is very rarely used by anyone other than the Quigleys and Bamesbergers. It is maintained infrequently by the county and dead-ends after one mile.
In talks about abandoning the road in late summer 2008, commissioners offered to build a cattle gate at county expense and Bamesberger offered to build a new, wide barbed-wire gate at his own expense, but Quigley refused both offers, saying that he has no other options to access his field and pasture in Section 8. He told commissioners that he is not allowed to use the oilfield roads that cross his pasture, a claim that commission chairman Earl McNutt found to be untrue.
The commissioners mediated the fight in August 2008, and Downer and McNutt voted Aug. 18 to retain the road so that Quigley could use the old road to access his field with big farm machinery. In late August, commissioners ruled that both landowners would have to move their fences beyond the newly-designated 66-foot right-of-way. The road would be staked at county expense just once, commissioners said.
But Stan Quigley and his son, Steve, continued to worry about the road, coming before commissioners to accuse Bamesberger of stealing fencing and posts and to tell commissioners that Bamesberger is growing crops and a windbreak across county right-of-way property on the far eastern half of the road. That's why commissioners, at their meeting a week ago, discussed abandoning the eastern half of the road or even the entire one-mile length of the road known today as Road 713.
County roads supervisor Gary Dicenta recommended abandoning the road, telling commissioners in a written statement that neither landowner needs the road to access his land. It is not a school bus or mail route, nor does it lead to an occupied dwelling, he said. Closing it would not isolate any piece of land, McNutt said.
McNutt said Monday morning that he does not want to put the county into the business of closing roads, "but in this case, no effort to get along" has been made by either party. "It's just a terrible situation," he said. "Neither party is innocent here."
McNutt continued, "We've tried to make the situation work well for both parties, but we haven't been successful." He said that commissioners and county attorney Paul Wood have researched the situation extensively and communicated with both parties, and added, "The only way I see to resolve the issue and get the county out of the situation is to abandon the whole road and return the right-of-way to the adjacent landowners."
The argument "is not going to go away," he said. "It's time to get the county out of a civil dispute ... it's been a total waste of time."
Quigley waved what he said is a building permit in front of commissioners. "I've got a permit to build now," he said. "Are you going to close that road? I gotta have a road to get to it."
Dicenta told Quigley and commissioners that the county cannot close a road to an occupied dwelling, but added that he is not aware that the county must provide a road to a dwelling. He recommended that Wood look into Quigley's contention that the county is obligated to build a road to service a home. There are many "long drive-ways" to occupied houses off of county roads, McNutt said, drives that are maintained at landowners', not the county's, expense.
Commissioner Leigh Hoyt said the county has the ability to give up its claim to a right-of-way, at which time ownership of the right-of-way and the land to the middle of the road traditionally reverts to adjacent landowners. If Road 221 is used as the property line rather than the section line, Bamesberger will lose the 1.3 acres of land between the road and the section line.
Hoyt said it would be the responsibility of a court of law to move the line of ownership. At that point, taxation of the 1.3 acres in question would also move from Bamesberger to Quigley, Hoyt said.
Steve Quigley questioned an opinion by Dicenta that abandoning the road would be in the best interest of county taxpayers. He also disagreed with commissioners' contention that retention and maintenance of the road has been costly to tax payers.
McNutt told Stan Quigley, "The bottom line is, we are not isolating you from your land. You have access on the oilfield roads."
Hoyt's motion to abandon the full one-mile length of Road 221/Road 713 passed on a 2-1 vote. Abandonment of the road takes effect immediately, McNutt said.
McNutt said the county will have to stake the middle of the road -- again -- so that ownership to the middle of the road and of the right-of-way can revert to Quigley and Bamesberger.
Wood agreed, "You'll have to identify the road for one mile."