Man continues quest to open farm road

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By Kevin Koelling, Managing Editor

TELL CITY - A man who made previous appearances before the county commissioners to seek access to land he owns in north Perry County was unsuccessful with another plea Aug. 6.

Herb Huff reminded the commissioners that the United States Constitution guarantees no citizen shall be deprived of property without due process of law.

"We haven't been able to get access to our property for over a year," the Birdseye resident said of land he owns along Indiana 62 west of St. Croix. As he has in the past, he claimed adjoining landowner Fred Dupont maintains barricades on a county road splitting the properties.

Commissioner Jody Fortwendel pointed out someone is farming Huff's land. "Your beans are this tall," he told him.

"From what I understand, he came in from Fred's property," Huff replied, adding that Dupont allowed it as long as no barriers were torn down.

Contacted in April, Dupont said the road Huff wants opened never had a name, although his attorney has documentation saying it's Oklahoma Road. He also said then that Huff himself barricaded it for five years.

Among documents Huff provided the commissioners Wednesday was a picture showing a barricade he said Dupont assembled of several gates, fence posts and other materials.

"It's not a county road," Commissioner Gary Dauby said.

County Highway Superintendent Ed Feix said when the issue was being discussed at an April meeting the road is not one his department maintains, and he wasn't sure if it was still a county road.

"It's not for us to say it's a county road," Commissioner Jody Fortwendel said. "We can't count on our county attorney for advice, so we'd have to hire another attorney.

He was referring to a statement made by Jeff Hagedorn at the April meeting, when he was filling in for Goffinet, that potential conflicts of interest prevented anyone from their law firm from providing advice on the issue.

A county plat map Huff provided Wednesday indicates the road originates as Odyssey Road, aka County Road 210, running west from Indiana 37, then turning north to connect with Indiana 62.

Part of it not shown on a county map adopted in 1977 and revised in 1995 appears on the plat map as a pair of dashed lines, indicating it's unimproved.

Fortwendel said during and after the meeting the road may belong to the county.

"We have all these dirt roads we've not kept up," he told Huff. "Dotted-line roads are everywhere in the county."

A lawyer would need to research them to determine which are still the county's responsibility, he added.

After the meeting, Fortwendel said Huff's situation identified a large and serious problem, that the unknown status of unimproved roads throughout the county could become a liability issue if someone is injured on one.

The commissioner said no inventory exists of county roads and the road Huff wants opened doesn't appear on a state roads inventory.

Huff provided a document at the April meeting titled Indiana Road Inventory that shows County Road 210 originating at Indiana 62 and intersecting Indiana 37.

Huff told the commissioners he has a lawsuit pending on the issue. A case summary shows he filed a complaint for injunction for denial of road use in October. No court date has been scheduled in the case.

"If it's pending in court," commissioner Don Sherry told Huff, "we might as well wait for that, because that's where we'll end up."

Both he and Fortwendel wished Huff "the best of luck" in the lawsuit.