Road closure bill tabled

By Kay Braddock

        A bill that would have required landowners to give notice to local governing bodies before installing a barrier on a road died in committee last week. HB 290, sponsored by Rep. Jon Sesso, D-Butte, drew in over a dozen testimonies for each side supporting and opposing the measure.

Sesso told transportation committee members that the bill’s intent was to provide a “balanced approach” to road closures, by requiring notice and a process to follow for the private property owner. 
The bill would have required local governing bodies to research the history of the road in determining whether the road could be closed or not.
Those opposing the measure included representatives from the state’s leading agriculture and stockgrower groups. Commissioners from Dawson and Rosebud counties were also represented in opposing the measure. 
“They don’t want the responsibility,” Bob Gilbert said of the commissioners, adding it is the job of the “tried and true method” of the court system to make these kinds of determinations.
Among those supporting the measure included access groups and county commissioners from Yellowstone and Lewis and Clark counties. 
Yellowstone County commissioner John Ostlund, who also serves as MACo president suggested several wording changes to the bill.
“Other than that, we support the bill,” Ostlund said. 
John Gibson, president of the PLWA pointed to the increasing occurrences of road closures happening throughout the state. Three counties are currently fighting road closures, Gibson said.
Prairie County commissioners weighed in on the measure through an email to Rep. Lee Randall, R-Broadus expressing their support for the bill if slight amendments were made.  
Randall, who serves as vice chair of the transportation committee, said in an email to the Tribune that there was no support for amendments.
“Chairman (Gordon) Vance and I have not played any games with this bill,” Randall said. “It had a fair hearing and was killed in committee.”
Published Feb. 9, 2011

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