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Bridge Delay Prompts Court Action

By David Howell

COFFEEVILLE – Supervisors voted to take court action on two property owners delaying a bridge replacement on County Road Two that has been stalled for months. The vote came during the “first Monday” meeting held June 1 in Coffeeville.

    County officials were forced to close the bridge in January after the State Aid Road Inspection’s 2009 inspection report cited numerous safety deficiencies with the structure. The bridge is located near Tillatoba.

    The holdup has been legal problems with property deeds on the land, a problem that has required the county’s attorney for the project, Daniel Martin, to contact numerous property owners and obtain signed deeds which allow the county to perform the bridge replacement. Martin works for Board Attorney John Crow, and was contracted by the county to perform the legal work.

    “We got 30-something deeds signed,” Crow said, adding that the remaining obstacle is two tracts of land, one four-tenths acre tract and a second sixth-tenths acre tract.

    Crow told supervisors he had placed a May 29 deadline on one of the landowners who could have an interest in the land. This landowner, a widow of a deceased child of J.B. Hartley, lives in Jackson and has hired a Tupelo attorney.

    “These people didn’t even know they had a possible interest in the property,” Crow said, adding their compensation would be an eighth-interest in four-tenths of an acre.

    The second tract of land in question involves the “long lost” niece of a Hartley that Martin located using a paid locator.

    “She will not respond,” Crow told supervisors, referring to property deeds that were mailed to her.

    District Five Supervisor Bubba Tillman said all other landowners had signed the necessary paperwork, including other Hartley family members, the Simmons family.

    “All those are donated,” Crow added.

    Crow also told supervisors the legal process, a quick take, should be completed in a matter of weeks, and will include an order from Circuit Court giving the county claim to the property. The county will be required to tender 85 percent of the appraised value of the land to the court, an amount that will only be a couple hundred dollars.

    “The engineers are wanting to get something done. As quick as you can give them the go-ahead for us to get the paperwork certified, I am hoping we can have a bridge project started by the first of August,” Tillman said.

    “That is more than reasonable,” Crow answered. “The sad thing about it, you are wasting a lot of legal fees,” Crow said.

    “I need authority to file suit,” Crow said.

    “I make the motion,” Tillman answered, as the board voted unanimously in favor of taking court action against both property owners to obtain title to the property.

    The bridge is expected to cost a half a million dollars and will be funded using state dollars.

    • Approved an ad valorem tax exemption for BorgWarner Emissions System.

    • Approved an application tax exemption for Windsor Quality Food Company, Ltd.

    • Tabled two applications for tax exemption, one from Metrocast and the second from Valley Tool. Tax Assessor Linda Shuffield told supervisors that she was working on the paperwork for Valley’s exemption, which she did not receive until the Friday before Monday mornings meeting. Board Attorney John Crow said he needed to research the statute under which Metrocast’s exemption was filed.

    • Approved an application from Timberland Harvestors to exceed to posted weight limits on County Road 215 while hauling logs in Districts 1 and 5. A second application was also approved for Timberland Harvestors on County Road 49 while logging in District Three. Fly Timber Company also submitted an application for logging in Districts 1 and 5 on County Road 215.

    • Amended the building and grounds budget to purchase furniture and equipment from Carother’s Construction. The furniture, which is currently in the building that was donated to the county, cost $5,000. Crow told supervisors this was basically a swap after Carother’s purchased $5,000 in phone equipment that was in the building at the time of the donation.

    • Voided three land sales after two county employees and the spouse of a third county employee bid on the property at the tax sale after Crow advised supervisors that this was prohibited.

    • Approved a request for travel for Coroner Ronnie Stark to attend the state coroner’s convention.

    • Approved a request for travel for Tax Assessor/Collector Linda Shuffield to attend her association’s convention.

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