County to look into issues on Sage Drive east of Cody

Posted 2/27/24

Subdivision residents and the county government have had to deal with complex issues recently thanks to 50-year-old decisions.

Back in the 1970s, developers would often ask county commissioners …

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County to look into issues on Sage Drive east of Cody


Subdivision residents and the county government have had to deal with complex issues recently thanks to 50-year-old decisions.

Back in the 1970s, developers would often ask county commissioners for “ordinary or limited” maintenance of roads they were constructing in new subdivisions, notes Park County Project Manager Ben McDonald.

Park County has record of 48 roads which are non-county roads that receive limited or ordinary maintenance. These are subdivision roads and roads in places like the original townsites of Ralston and Garland, which are in the county but do not have a municipal government.

“These roads that are dedicated to the public that receive limited county maintenance are always a major source of controversy for our office,” County Engineer Brian Edwards said. “We spend a great deal of time dealing with issues as it relates to these roads.”

Earlier in February, another of the roads reached the spotlight.

After residents complained about the issues on Sage Drive east of Cody, Park County Commissioners chair Dossie Overfield said the county would look into possible solutions to a road that, anecdotally at least, is seeing high speeds and frequent wrecks or near wrecks.

At the Feb. 6 commission meeting, Edwards shared a petition letter with a group of neighbors on the road asking for some kind of fix that would improve the safety and quality of the road.

Most asked for some sort of improvement at a hill near the border with Schultz Drive that includes a blind corner and a narrow roadway.

The issue is the road is one of those where the county long ago agreed to maintain part of the road to a certain level, but does not do full maintenance.

“We’ve got these all over the county and we’ve got our hands tied,” Edwards said. “It’s a commission decision if you want us to do more maintenance.”

McDonald said the definition of limited or ordinary maintenance has been subjective since the 1970’s. Previous county engineers who have dealt with this problem have approached previous county commissioners to clearly define what limited and ordinary maintenance should be on the subdivision roads that were accepted in that time period.

“It is my understanding that the answer given by previous BOCCs and observed by all the succeeding county engineers was that the limited/ordinary maintenance is defined as two road maintenance gradings per year and snow removal services,” McDonald said.

The petition on Sage Drive asks for two parts: No. 1, to maintain the full road the same way it maintains part of it now. And No. 2, to ask for a higher level of maintenance than is provided under the limited and ordinary model. Some of the neighbors spoke in favor of that including paving, while others did not.

Neighborhood resident Misty Sporer said she wrote the letter petition following a barbecue where some of the neighbors came together and talked about the issues with the road. She said the idea of paving, specifically, was just a potential solution that some of those neighbors agreed with, while others didn’t.

On the state of the road after a lot of rain or with ice on it, there was much less disagreement, with residents saying the surface can be quickly destroyed after the twice yearly gradings by county staff.

Sid Sporer, who lives on neighboring Schultz Drive just above the hill, said he’s seen the issues with the road for more than the 30 years, back when he was living on the property as a child.

“My whole life I’ve seen people almost get into head-on collisions there,” he said, suggesting that widening the road around the hill would be a big step in solving some of the  safety issues.

Overfield said the commissioners regularly meet with county Road and Bridge and would discuss possible solutions, and may then call neighbors back to another meeting to discuss possible solutions, which could include a cost sharing agreement as has been done on other roads with similar statuses in the county and in others.

“We really appreciate your input. Safety factors are important to all of us and we will take this all into consideration,” Overfield said, adding “We may talk solutions and we may be back with you — if there are cost sharing options, we may be back with you on that.”

She added that as far as the issue of speeding is concerned, a similar issue on a road in Powell was tamped down with more deputy presence, so they could look at the same solution on Sage Drive.

As far as the issue with these types of roads, that is still ongoing.

For county Road and Bridge, even though these types of roads haven’t been approved for awhile, they are still a big added time suck.

“The additional time and resources we allocate to plow and sand these limited/ordinary maintenance roads are significant for a non-county road,” McDonald said. “We like to encourage subdivisions (lot owners) to form a road maintenance association to collectively fund and maintain their roads.”

McDonald said Sage Drive, which does not have a road maintenance association, has 30 lots/ owners. He estimated a complete gravel resurfacing of the road, which would solve some of the concerns raised, would cost approximately $90,000 in material and haul cost, equating to $3,000 per lot owner.

“This is real dollars, but if you amortize this cost over 10 years or so, it equates to $300 per year for each lot owner,” he said. “This is not unreasonable, and this is how all subdivisions are approved and operated now.”

There are solutions to the road status too, including a Natrona County example where the county and lot owners along these controversial roads enter into an agreement whereby a road improvement and maintenance district is established. The county would pay some percentage of the cost to bring the road back up to county standards with the understanding that once completed, the newly formed district would take over maintenance and future improvements.

“I think this is the fairest way to address the disparity created in that newer subdivisions are required to handle their own maintenance and improvements,” Edwards said. “Ultimately, the commissioners would have the final say in this but I think this would be good for all involved and the fairest approach for Park County citizens as a whole.”