Saturday February 13th, 2016 10:29AM

Banks County abandons most of unpopulated county road

By Rob Moore Reporter
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HOMER - The Banks County Commission has abandoned all but about 1,000 feet of an unpopulated dirt road located between Homer and Banks Crossing.

During its meeting Tuesday night, the commission held a public hearing to receive input on whether to close Willis Harden Road, a dirt road that connects Harden Bridge Road with Banks Road.

There are no homes on the road.

"It's almost a 50/50 split with people that live close to the road every day, and absentee landowners who want to keep it open," said Commission Chairman Jimmy Hooper.

Resident Chris Phagan, whose property adjoins the road on the Banks Road end just off U.S. Highway 441, spoke in favor of the county abandoning the road.

"No one lives on the road," Phagan said. "There's really no reason for anybody to go through the road except the landowners."

Nearby residents have told commissioners the road is used as both an unregulated recreation area and a dumping area for unwanted items.

In a letter to commissioners, included in their packets Tuesday night, Phagan wrote, "Willis Harden Road in Banks County has become a playground for many teenagers. These kids are abusing this road and surrounding property by dumping out loads of tires and garbage. The road is staying a muddy mess because of Jeeps and trucks mudbogging. Someone is going to get hurt or killed."

Hooper said he worries that if there is an accident on the rough dirt road, emergency personnel will not be able to reach it in their assigned vehicles.

Letters to the commission from attorneys for landowners near the Harden Bridge Road end of the road urged county leaders to keep the road in its maintenance inventory.

Rather than close the road, the attorneys suggested utilizing law enforcement to curtail the "mudding" and dumping of trash.

Potential logging of the property was cited by the attorneys in their letters as a reason to keep the road open.

No one in favor of keeping the road open was present at the public hearing.

Following the public hearing, Hooper made a motion to reach the finding that the road no longer is needed for public road purposes. His motion was seconded by Charles Turk, with all voting in favor.

Turk then made a motion to close the road roughly 1,000 feet from Harden Bridge Road, which would allow those landowners on that end to access their property. The motion passed.

Commissioner Danny Maxwell asked that once the road is abandoned the county scrape it to improve access for those who use the road to reach fields where they cut hay.

County Attorney Randall Frost told the commission scraping the road with county equipment and personnel would not be legal since it would become private property once abandoned.

The road closure will prevent vehicles from reaching the hill where "mudding" has become an increasing problem, commissioners said.
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