Board of Supervisors will not take side on restricted access issues of Ridge Road
Boyd “Butch” Merrifield returned Tuesday to further discuss his claims of illegal restriction of access to Ridge Road with the Pearl River County Board of Supervisors.
In March, Merrifield, a resident of Asa McQueen Road, addressed the board about the issue involving access to the property he stands to inherit on Ridge Road that is currently gated off by a Pearl River County resident.
Merrifield alleged that the two gates, one on the Hancock County side, the other on Pearl River County side, were installed without permission from the federal government or any other entity, and have been there for a number of years. However since Pearl River County, and county workers, have had no access to the road for many years, it was left off the Official County Road List in 2006 and is therefore considered abandoned by Pearl River County, and ultimately not their jurisdiction.
Merrifield returned to discuss the abandonment and restriction issues further, and asked the Board if a formal request had been made by the county to abandon that section from Asa-McQueen to the 607? The board informed Merrifield that a formal request had not been submitted to abandon the road, but lack of access and the fact that the federal government owns the land on either side of the blocked off section, led them to abandon the road, leaving it off the County Road List.
“It’s my understanding that in order to be officially and legally abandoned by a county there must be a request and a public hearing made available,” Merrifield said. “I request that you slow down this process and look over my findings on the legal precedent made by Judge Purson recently.”
Merrifield explained that the “Judge Persons” precedent exclusively involves county roads and abandoning public roads in buffer zones owned by the federal government.
Merrifield also went on to say that a member of the Hancock County Board of Supervisors informed him they have never considered the road abandoned and have plans to take action against this illegal restriction on their side.
“I was informed via email this morning that it is their intention to take the gate down or force the individual who put it up to take it down,” Merrifield said. “Because it’s blocking an open public road from Hancock County all the way to Pearl River County.”
However the Pearl River County Board of Supervisors adamantly explained that the section in question is not considered a public road of Pearl River County.
Merrifield responded, “If Ridge Road is open all the way from Hancock County, I don’t understand why you guys won’t please at least consider including the last little quarter of a mile to connect. Makes no sense how one person is able to take over a three mile section of a public road and no one can do anything about it. It’s baffling to me.”
County Administrator, Adrain Lumpkin stepped in and informed Merrifield that the section in question, from Asa-McQueen to Ridge Road has in fact never been on the official road list and that the federal government owns the property on either side all the way to the Hancock County line, so no Pearl River County residents live there.
“In my personal opinion, why would we want to take and maintain another quarter mile of road that there’s no houses on and never will be,” Lumpkin said.
“If it’s not a county road, I don’t see where we have any interest in the matter,” District Two Supervisor, Malcolm Perry said.
County Attorney Joe Montgomery informed the board that a situation such as this is very complicated and should be handled by the two individuals involved in the dispute in a courtroom. He also told the board they would be taking a risk by taking a side on this matter.
“It’s a very complicated process proving whether or not this is an open road and it’s very complicated proving what happened 50 years ago when the government took it over. Because it’s been in the possession of the Federal Government for 50 years is no question,” Montgomery said. “It’s going to take a very complicated legal action between the two parties disputing over this access to settle it. Frankly I would recommend the county not get involved in either side of this issue.”
The board explained to Merifield that they would not be taking a side on the issue and advised Merifield and all parties involved to seek legal advice.
Merrifield thanked the board for taking to time to allow him to discuss the issue on the road.