20 families stranded after storm leaves 20-foot gap in road - WDAM-TV 7-News, Weather, Sports-Hattiesburg, MS

20 families stranded after storm leaves 20-foot gap in road

IRON STATION, NC (WBTV) -

Progress was made in Lincoln County Sunday, after two-dozen families were stranded when storms washed away their road. A 20-foot gap was left behind, making it impossible for homeowners to leave their neighborhood.

Workers with the state forestry service arrived with heavy equipment to install two bridges, one for pedestrians and one for vehicles. The vehicle bridge is a temporary fix. It will only be there until Tuesday, so neighbors can drive their cars across to the other side.

According to officials, storms that hit Iron Station late Friday night into early Saturday morning washed away a large section of Amity Lane.  They say the section is nearly 20 feet wide and between 13 and 15 feet deep.

That left 20 families, that live near the 5100 block of Amity Road, stranded.

Officials say Lincoln County has no maintenance program, because the county does not build or maintain roads. Road maintenance is done by the state.

The problem for residents along Amity Lane is that they live a mile off of the state's right of way and the state won't leave the right of way to work on other road. Also, the road was built on private property, therefore has to be self-maintained.

Bill Summers with Lincoln County Emergency Management says in order for the road to be maintained by the state - the developer had to have built the road to state standards, which it wasn't.

So in essence, everyone that lives along the road is responsible for each piece of road that touches their property.

That's because a neighborhood covenant clearly spells out ownership and responsibility for maintaining Amity Lane.

WBTV obtained the deed records, which say "obligation for the repair and maintenance" is the "sole responsibility of the owners." When it comes to deciding about repairs and maintenance, it's majority rule.

Back in the mid-1980's neighbors submitted two requests to turn the private road into a state road. Mark Stafford, a Division 12 Maintenance Engineer with the NC DOT, said the state would not intervene in making repairs or bringing the road up to minimum standards.

Stafford said it could cost more than $500,000 to bring a one-mile stretch of similar road up to minimum standards. That would have to be done before DOT officials would consider accepting the road into the state system.

Sharon Trent lives at the end of the road. She has lived there for 30 years and says the road has always been a problem.

Trent says she and other neighbors have tried "all avenues" to get someone to help maintain the road, but to no avail.
 
"[The hole is] as big as my home. Four bedrooms would fit in that hole. That is a disaster for all of us," Trent said. "I'm just glad we have a bunch of good neighbors, because we are going to rely heavily on each other for the next little while. Until something is done."

Summers says Emergency Management asked for help from other state agencies, such as forestry services.

That agency provided a temporary, portable bridge going across the creek to support vehicles so that residents can get cars across the gap. 

Summers says Emergency management officials are out there to support the community and find help. He hopes the "short cut" they've been able to secure will at least allow residents to get their cars on the right side of the road.

He says there isn't going to be easy access or an easy fix.

Eddie Whitley says his wife is partially disabled and won't be able to walk across a temporary bridge to get to their car every day.

"Temporary don't fix it - we need a real fix," Whitley said. "[but] people around here can't pay what they want to fix this road."

That leaves neighbors with a difficult decision. Their temporary vehicle bridge provided by the state forestry service is about to be removed. Neighbors told WBTV they don't have funding to make their own repairs.

It's important to find out before purchasing a home or any property whether the road is considered private or public. Sellers and developers are required to give potential buyers a subdivision streets disclosure document. It spells out the owners responsibilities, if the road is privately owned.

Copyright 2013 WBTV. All rights reserved.

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