By Kay Braddock
The Prairie County Commission voted 2 to 1 Tuesday afternoon, enacting a resolution to begin a timeline of negotiating public access to Scenic View Road with landowner Michael Karrels. The resolution reads, “A motion is made to notify Mr. Karrels that Prairie County would like to negotiate use of Scenic View Road for public use. If final agreement cannot be reached upon by October 1, 2009 the Prairie County Commission will file in District 7 Court for a judgment.”
Prairie County Commissioner Todd Devlin made the motion, with commissioner Deanna Bockness seconding the resolution. After some discussion, commissioner Ann Marie Davis offered the lone dissenting vote.
“We have used it (Scenic View Road) for over 40 years. We have put county funds into it. Does anybody disagree with that?” Commissioner Devlin asked the other commissioners before the vote was taken.
Commissioner Devlin pointed out that Montana statute dictated the county must act on the access issue or risk being sued by water and land access groups. Montana statute 7-14-2615 specifies that roads which have provided access to public lands cannot be abandoned unless another road that provides essentially the same access is provided.
“Why did we let it escalate into a nightmare?” Commissioner Davis asked.
“Because we tried to be the nice guys,” commissioner Devlin responded, noting the commission has tried to negotiate with the landowner from the onset.
“Anybody can go to Scenic View Road who wants to go,” Davis said, noting that individuals need only to call the landowner to ask permission to travel the road. Davis expressed concern that people were trying to run the landowner out-of-town.
An earlier motion to take the matter straight to district court was introduced, seconded and discussed, but died, shortly after consulting with Prairie County Attorney Becky Convery.
“For the first time, Mr. Karrels has been given information that there is a county road on his property,” Convery said, referring to the Old Cherry Creek Road which runs through more deeded property owned by Karrels and leads to the Scenic View outlook as well. “Give him the option to come to the table and if doesn’t want to, then move forward.”
Estimated TransCanada revenue discussed
Commissioner Devlin expressed the need to approach the Montana Department of Revenue on the estimated taxes that may be coming to Prairie County if the TransCanada pipeline is completed. The county should begin planning where and how the money can best be allocated, Devlin noted.
Softball park options reviewed
Commissioners will be seeking public comment at an upcoming special evening meeting as to what to do with the softball field. Several options were discussed as to what to do with the park, including keeping it as is, selling it or adding utilities to it and selling it.
Published August 5, 2009