Public hearing continues on road vacation

Published 10:23 am Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Residents near County Road 7717 returned to speak to the Pike County Commission Monday, this time with a petition not to keep the road instead of vacating it to Lockheed Martin.

“When my father bought the land, he checked for the value of the timber, the value of the house and land and, yes, the accessibility provided by 7717,” said Darlene Lee, referring to the property she now lives on that is adjacent to Lockheed Martin’s property. “The more accessible the property, the more valuable the property. We will have been deceived by Pike County if the road is closed, as well as every other citizen, because this would mean any road can be closed at any time … It’s greed, gentlemen. Pure financial greed.”

Lockheed Martin petitioned the commission for the 2.7-mile portion of the road which includes 32 acres of land in September. Lockheed representatives have said they need to absorb the road in order to be considered for future expansion.

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Allen Jones, county attorney, said that he and Russell Oliver, county engineer, did due diligence and determined that Lockheed is the only landowner with property abutting the portion of road that is up for vacation.

Matt Baker, an attorney representing the company, addressed concerns Monday that had brought at the previous public hearing in January.

“We have an agreement in place with Pike County Water Authority, we have an agreement in place with South Alabama Electric Cooperative and we anticipate a formal agreement with the Meeksville Fire Department,” Baker said. The Henderson family, who owns a lodge near the road, had brought forward issues about whether utilities could be accessed properly if Lockheed took ownership of the road. Meeksville Fire Chief Lewis Davis had also brought concerns forward about how closing the road might affect response times, which Lockheed representatives responded to by saying the company would ensure the gates would be opened immediately so firefighters could respond without interruption.

Baker said Lockheed has also agreed to pay for the movement of a water meter that lies within the property closer to the Henderson’s lodge to ensure they maintain access to the meter.

Lee also brought up issues brought up by nearby property owners, of which 73 had signed the petition.

“It is going to drop the value of our property,” Lee said. “No one is going to give us a good market price for our land.”

Lee said traffic is one issue, stating that the area already has an issue with people speeding through and hitting pets. She also stated concerns that a back gat would be constructed and would “shine all night long” directly in view from her house and others.

Jason Crager, site director and general manager of Pike County Operations, said there are no plans to put a gate in the area Lee referred to.

“Based on our recent and anticipated growth, currently, we are constrained by regulations on where can build future production facilities based on distance to public roadways, for example,” Crager said. “There are no plans to change the main entrance from its current location on County Road 37.”

Editor’s note: Further action by the Pike County Commission will be detailed in an upcoming article.