Farnell Road suit has judge

Published 9:28 pm Tuesday, March 9, 2010

In an order passed down from the Alabama Supreme Court, District Judge Fred Steagall of Dale County, was appointed to reside over a lawsuit filed against the Pike County Commission.

The lawsuit was initiated by Attorney Grady Reeves on behalf of the Pirnies and the Deans, property owners of land surrounding Farnell Road just north of the China Grove community in Pike County District 1.

The landowners declared in their initial complaint that the county commission unlawfully denied their petition to effectively close the road.

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In a public hearing held in response to that petition, Reeves told the commission that his clients were legally entitled to have Farnell Road vacated.

“As long as vacating the road does not deprive any landowner of ingress or egress to his property, there is no reason for the Pike County Commission to override this law,” he said.

But after hearing from several residents of the China Grove community, the commission unanimously denied the petition.

476 residents opposed the vacation of the dirt road, citing such reasons as the need for the road for use by emergency vehicles and the economic difficulties it’s closure could present.

“This is a farm to market road,” China Grove resident Jimmy Messick previously told The Messenger. “Closing it would put a hardship on a lot of people.”

Reeves stated in his complaint that, “the Pike County Commission did not provide any reason for their vote,” and that “the commission’s decision was politically based and not in compliance with Alabama Law.”

County Attorney Allen Jones filed an answer to the complaint asserting that the plaintiffs had no legal standing to bring action against the commission.

In a counterclaim seeking damages that would result from the legal battle, Jones wrote, “the Plaintiffs’ action will result in the expenditure of public monies and taxpayer funds by the Defendant for the purpose of defending a frivolous complaint which was filed without substantial justification.”

Judge Steagall was assigned to the case after the judges from Pike County’s Judicial Circuit elected to recuse themselves.

Steagall said that he expected to have a date for a hearing within the next day or two.

“We will seat a hearing,” he said. “My secretary has been calling up there (Pike County Courthouse) to check on availability.”