Bertie’s bad roads identified

Published 6:17 pm Friday, October 11, 2019

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WINDSOR – Bertie County Emergency Services Director Mitch Cooper and Bertie County Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Kenny Perry made their report on which roads in the county have been deemed impassable.

The collection data was presented on Monday to the Bertie County Commissioners at their October meeting held at the Windsor Community Building.

The identified roads were ones within the county that were defined as impassable by the county’s recently adopted Road Safety and Maintenance Ordinance.

“The private roads must be passable,” said Cooper, reading the wording from the Ordinance. “Passable is defined as being clear of obstacles and capable of being traveled upon safely. Travel will be deemed safe when said private road is devoid of any and all holes, cracks, crevices, potholes or other breaks in the road which cause the bottom chassis of the vehicle to come into contact with the ground or water during non-extreme weather conditions.”

Both the Bertie County Sheriff’s Office and Emergency Services were tasked with collecting this data based on information brought by citizens during previous presentations at earlier Commissioners’ meetings.

To date, 28 roads that are not maintained by the state Department of Transportation (NCDOT) have been identified, and the collection group was then assessed to verify if emergency vehicles could safely pass along these roads to provide an emergency response to the citizens and visitors of Bertie County.

“These were the ones that needed to be checked out, and thus, the ones we went through,” Cooper stated.

Because there were questions from the general public at the time the Ordinance was being debated before the Commissioners on how it would be undertaken, Cooper said he and the Sheriff’s Office then came up with a plan.

“The assessment was done with a 2011 Crown Victoria style police car that is a spare vehicle for Emergency Management,” he said. “This vehicle was chosen to represent the lowest ground clearance vehicle in emergency response which is the Dodge Charger at 4.6 inches of clearance. These roads were assessed because a citizen determined a concern.”

If more than the 28 identified roads exist, and has not been listed, a request will need to be made for future assessments, he declared.

For the sake of identification, each road was assessed by driving the Crown-Vic the complete distance of the road and documentation was made for what is defined as a ‘passable road’ in Article III, section b of the Ordinance.

The assessment was finished on Wednesday, Oct. 2 under what Cooper said were ‘normal’ weather conditions without any prior extreme weather conditions such as heavy rainfall.

“There are four roads that are deemed as impassable by definition of the Road Safety and Maintenance Ordinance,” he acknowledged.

All four of the roads with conditions rated as ‘Major’ were located in the Kelford area, in the western portion of the county, off Governor’s Road.

Cooper also presented photo evidence of the roads in question, along with pictures of the vehicle that was used, beginning with Ted Cherry Lane.

“These were roads that caused the chassis of the vehicle – at 4.6 inches of ground clearance – to come into contact with the ground,” he said. “This was one of the deepest parts. (The vehicle) didn’t just bottom out, when it came up it was sitting on a hill.”

Cooper said Nancy Boulevard, another roadway that was assessed, in addition to deep potholes, was so overgrown with grass and vegetation that up until a couple of months ago, they would not even take the car on the road.

“We do have documentation from the Kelford Fire Department where they’ve gotten a fire truck stuck back there,” he said. “That’s a Custom-Cab fire truck, a nice rig, and it was pushing mud. We talked to two of the residents and they said it’s got some bad spots on it.”

Tina Lane, which is at the very end of Ted Cherry Road, was the third roadway Cooper cited.

“You can see where residents are driving in have to encroach on other people’s yards to get around,” he noted.

David Drive – the fourth location – also off NC 308, had a couple of low spots at the road’s entrance.

“Then at the very bottom is where I lost my license plate trying to get through, when the chassis hit the ground,” he related.

Cooper said these were the four roads they had driven that qualify under what the ordinance defines based on the definition in the ordinance of where the chassis of his vehicle hit the ground under non-extreme weather conditions.

Two roads in the Colerain area, Cabin Road and Pioneer Avenue, off Meadow Road, had originally been listed as ‘Major’, but said after a second ride-thru, someone had actually made improvements such that the chassis requirements could be met.

“Somebody had actually started working on (those two roads), and they’d actually gotten a lot better,” he indicated. “I think the goal of the ordinance is working.”

Commissioner Ron Wesson inquired about two roads in his district, Thomasville Lane and Pierce Lane, off School Road.

“I rode that road three times and it was above the level the ordinance states that the chassis has to hit in non-extreme weather conditions,” Cooper answered.

“They (residents) have still been very, very vocal,” said Wesson.

“If somebody wants an assessment, all they have to do is call our office, we’ll write it up, and put it on the schedule,” Cooper remarked.

He said that in addition to the Emergency Management number (252-794-5302), residents could also call the county switchboard requesting an assessment and their requests would be forwarded.

County Manager Scott Sauer said letters had been prepared by the County Attorney to be delivered by courier to the owners of the roads in question. According to the ordinance, the landowners have 45 days to bring the roads into compliance. They do have right of appeal within 10 days of receiving the letter of violation; but after the 45 days they would be subject to a civil penalty.

Sauer did not publicly name the landowners of the four roads.