Commissioners hear both sides in road dispute

Elizabeth Trexler-News-Herald

The Rossis, Brights and Ted McDonald brought an ongoing road dispute before Loudon County Commission Monday night.

The question is whether commissioners should move in and make the road public against the wishes of the Rossis.

Deb and Stewart Rossi own and operate Lake Tellico Lodge and a private residential neighborhood called Yellowwood. They became concerned about trespassing and unauthorized hunting on their property, and Deb Rossi said the couple approached neighbors Lynn Bright and McDonald and offered to install a gate.

"(Hunters) wait until TRDA isn't on duty, which it isn't hard to figure out their schedule, and then go hunting," Deb Rossi said. "The land was vacant for 200 years. We said we would maintain the road, which would cost the county $60,000 over 20 years."

A $25,000 gate was installed on the road before Bright voiced opposition, according to the Rossis.
The gate now stands open.

Bright said when he received the agreement drafted by the Rossis' attorney there was no mention of upkeep of the road, which the Rossis had offered to do.

"They were trying to deceive us," Bright said.

Stewart Rossi told commissioners that he informed Bright that the Rossis would pay Bright's attorney fees for him to take the paperwork to his attorney and add any language he wanted. Stewart Rossi said Bright never did that.

"To me, it was never a private road," McDonald, who owns a tree farm at the end of Baxter Bright Road, said.

The road was originally a county road, but Russ Newman, county planning and codes director, said it came off the list in 2006 when his department approved the neighborhood development. The road was expected to come back on the list as a new road to replace Baxter Bright Road, Newman said.

The Rossis' attorney said he would be filing a lawsuit later this month.

Bob Franke, who is commissioner for that area of the county, was not at Monday's meeting.

Commissioner Don Miller suggested giving extra time during the Feb. 6 regular commission meeting to allow for more conversation.

In unrelated matters, commissioners heard:

Information on a new voting system for the Loudon County Commission. Steve Fritts gave a presentation showing how the system would work and said he could be a system similar to one in Blount County. With the system, each commissioner would have a handheld device to record votes. A screen would be in the room that would show the results of each vote.

"I'm a firm believer in keeping up with the technology," Commissioner Steve Harrelson said.

A presentation from Loudon County Road Commissioner Eddie Simpson, who shared the county's 2012 road list and discussed a trash problem along county roads and the ongoing disappearance of road signs.

An update from Steve Field of the solid waste disposal commission. During the 2011 calendar year, the Matlock Bend landfill accepted 237,061 tons of garbage.

An update from Loudon County Visitor Bureau Executive Director Clayton Pangle on bureau activities.

A debt management policy summary from Commissioner Miller.

A proposed pay scale for election workers from Budget Director Tracy Blair. Currently, early voting workers are paid $9 per hour, which is not proposed to change. However, early voting officers are currently paid $10 per hour and there is a proposed increase to $12 per hour. Training is currently paid at $10, but there is a proposed increase to $25. The state will reimburse for election expenses.

Loudon County Director of Schools Jason Vance presented a $50,000 budget amendment the Board of Education has proposed for equipment received as part of a grant last year. The equipment, however, did not arrive until this year and the money had already rolled over into the overall fund balance. The school system is asking to take the money out of the fund balance and use it to pay for the distance learning technology equipment.

The next Loudon County Commission meeting will be held at 6 p.m. Feb. 6 at the Loudon County Courthouse annex.