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Landowners seek help maintaining their roads

Township road dispute tabled for more info
Residents in the area of 303rd Street and 540th Avenue north of Austin are in dispute with the township over who should maintain the road in front of their homes.

Kathleen Oswald lives on 306th Street in Udolpho Township. She's one of four landowners there who are requesting the Mower County Board to force the township to maintain their roads.

Having to use an alternate entry to get to her residence due to lack of road maintenance would require her to "trespass across land I don't own," she says. "I was told it's considered a private driveway, but it's legally a public road, and I can't block or restrict access to it."

As a medical professional, she and her neighbors — who include other medical personnel, a sheriff's deputy, public school teachers and farmers — are at the mercy of the elements, Oswald said, including 6-feet snow drifts.

"Our very lives and very property are in danger," she told the commissioners. "I'm gravely concerned for my family. There's no way an ambulance or fire truck could get to us. The school bus won't come out. We don't have garbage pick-up. The propane truck got stuck out there, and we had no heat for three days."

That's a hazard of country-living, said a township board member.


"If they have such important jobs in town, they should live in town," he said, then added that should the township be required to maintain the road, "next thing, we'll have to plow driveways for everybody."

"I don't believe they're asking for extra services above and beyond what other people in the township are getting," Commissioner Ray Tucker said.

The three other homeowners also spoke of hardship — one of the criteria that needs to be met to compel the township to action, per the statute.

The others are the cost of the proposed maintenance, the number of houses serves, and the condition of the roads as constructed.

The costs

Byram argued that the township already maintains 36 miles of gravel road, and the three in question are adjacent to roads already being maintained. On those 36 miles of road, he said, are 176 homes — fewer than four homes per mile.

In the four years since she's lived there, Oswald's property taxes have climbed from $190 per year to nearly $1,900 per year, Byram said.

"The homes there range in price from $172,000 to $208,000," he said. "They have a significant investment there, and it's appropriate to use their tax dollars to pay for the maintenance."


After nearly 90 minutes of testimony, commissioners tabled the issue until Nov. 22, citing a lack of information needed to make the decision.

Specifically, they requested the township's maintenance cost for a mile stretch of road; the county's own cost for maintaining a mile of gravel road; the land's pre- and post-development assessed taxes; and the percentage of the tax that goes to the township.

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