Meeting addresses several county road designation petitions

By Kay Braddock 

Prairie County commissioners tackled road issues once again during a Jan. 3 meeting that drew in a dozen or more residents, who neighbor each of the three roads on the agenda of discussion. But this time it wasn’t the county seeking to declare the roads public – it was landowners.
“We get a petition. We’re required by law to take it seriously,” commission chairman Todd Devlin said, reiterating the point that the roads up for discussion were brought up by individuals – not the county.
It wouldn’t be the only point reiterated during the over 2-hour long meeting.
The three petitions seeking county road status for three roads north of Terry were each signed by 10 freeholders. The roads are: Lisk Creek Road, Chester Road and North Bad Route Road.
In the case of Lisk Creek Road, landowner Carol Willardson said she is seeking to make the road a county road to ensure legal access to her private property.
“I didn’t think it had to be upgraded,” Willardson said of the road. Her comment came in response to concerns raised by neighbors Lee Chapman and Vadnae Greenfield about any work that would be done to the road by county crews.
“I sure hope there would be an alternate route than to try and tear up some significant historic area,” Greenfield said, pointing to an old hall site and tennis courts that once existed near the two-track Lisk Creek Road. 
Greenfield also pointed to environmental aspects that would make upgrading the Lisk Creek Road a detriment to its surroundings.
“The county commissioners have, at this point in time, no intention of doing anything to that road,” Devlin said.
In a point that he has repeatedly made at various public road meetings, Devlin said county road designation can prove most beneficial to landowners as lending institutions are declining loans on property that have no public access to them.
“They will not lend money out unless there is legal access to the property,” Devlin said, referring to information he gathered at a Southeastern Montana Stockgrowers Association seminar addressing road issues.
Although the current Prairie County Board of Commission has no intention or requirement to upgrade a county road to a certain standard, Chapman wondered if that would change in the future due to a state law or a change of leadership on the board.
“That’s what I’m looking at is down the road,” Chapman said. “What will it mean later, when it is established as a county road for the future?”
Devlin said he believes it is unlikely that state statute requiring county road standards could pass the legislature, but noted the issue has been hashed over in the past. He noted the current commission’s intent is not to degrade private property but to protect it.
The petitions for county road status for North Bad Route Road and Chester Road drew similar questions and concerns from neighboring landowners.
Commissioners plan to make a final decision on whether to designate the three roads county roads following a 30-day comment period. Written comments can be mailed or dropped off at the courthouse.  
Published Jan. 18, 2012
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