Hancock County has varying opinion on Ridge Road issue

Published 7:00 am Friday, April 7, 2017

After a Pearl River County resident spoke to the Board of Supervisors about alleged illegally installed gates along Ridge Road last month, the state of the road’s accessibility is still up for debate.
Investigation into Pearl River County’s road map showed that the county did not adopt the road in 2000 when it submitted its road map to the state, County Administrator Adrain Lumpkin said.
As a result, the section of the road in Pearl River County became private by default, maintained by private individuals who erected a gate several years ago, previous coverage states.
The federal government owns the land surrounding that section of the road because it is part of the Stennis Space Center Buffer Zone, Lumpkin said.
Therefore, none of the land accessible by that portion of road in the county is owned by a taxpaying county resident, he said.
Lumpkin said the land surrounding the section of the road in Hancock County is both privately and government owned, providing a different set of circumstances.
The Board took no action on the matter during the March 22 meeting, but Lumpkin said the Board does have the authority to add the road into the county road map, thereby requiring the county to maintain the road and mandating the removal of the disputed gates.
The resident that brought this issue to the Board’s attention, Boyd Merrifield, also spoke to the Hancock County Board of Supervisors Monday. Karen Frierson Lee, whosde family installed the gates, also spoke to that Board.
After hearing testimony from both sides of the issue, and investigating previous Board minutes and orders, Hancock County Board Attorney Gary Yarborough said the Board determined it is a public road and the gate should be removed—on the Hancock County side.
The section of Ridge Road in Hancock County was included in the 2007 county road registry, Yarborough said.
Unless someone submits a petition to abandon the road, it will remain public property, he said.
Hancock County Board President Blaine LaFontaine said he expects the Board will hold a public hearing on the issue in the next 30 to 45 days to gather public opinion and learn the history of the road.
“Moving forward, the fact that this road does lie between both counties, there will have to be some collaboration to avoid potential conflict,” LaFontaine said.
As of Thursday, public hearing dates in either county were not set.

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About Julia Arenstam

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