- The pubic hearing to determine if a dead end road is considered financially burdensome was held in a packed house Monday night prior to the regular meeting of the Starrucca Borough Council.
At the meeting, borough solicitor Anthony Waldron was present.
"We do not have to prove all three of them," Waldron said. "We just have to prove one."
During the hearing, Council President Jack Downton stated that the borough is responsible for maintaining nine roads totaling 6.84 miles as determined by the state Liquid Fuels allocation. Of that mileage, Kellogg Road amounts to 0.40 miles of that total.
He said the total liquid fuels allocation for the current year totals $16,668.20. Based on the mileage given, Downton said the total amount of liquid fuels funds allocated for the road are around $974.75.
Attorney Ronald Bugaj was present at the meeting representing three residents who own land accessed by Kellogg Road-Darl Haynes, Carol Haynes and Darwin Haynes. Darl Haynes also has a primary residence accessed directly by the road.
When asked by Bugaj how much money had been spent on Kellogg Road in total, Downton replied that from April 2011-to July 2013, "$7,200 in legal fees" had been spent on litigation directly related to Kellogg Road. Those legal fees were paid from the borough's general fund.
Those legal fees stem from various lawsuits, one of which is ongoing, filed against the borough by Darl Haynes regarding maintenance on Kellogg Road.
When asked by Waldron if the borough maintains beyond the point liquid fuels are allotted for, Downton said, "yes."
Downtown also said that the Kellogg Road had recently had maintenance called a french mattress performed in 2012. The funding for the approximately $9,000 project came from a grant.
"Does the borough spend more than what is alloted by liquid fuels on Kellogg Road?," Bugaj asked.
"Yes, with all the legal fees," Downton said.
He also asked Downton how much was spent in the road in 2013, 2012 or 2011. Downton said that he "didn't know" and did not "have those figures."
In further questioning, it was determined that the amount spent on repairs to the road from the liquid fuels allocation did equal the amount allotted.
"So, if you are spending approximately the same amount, how is it burdensome?" Bugaj said.
Downton said more than that amount was spent if the $7,200 in legal fees were added.
"Legal fees aren't maintenance," Bugaj said.
When asked if an ongoing lawsuit with Darl Haynes was a factor in vacating the road, Downton said, "No."
Bugaj also asked, "If the road is vacated, will it get (the borough) out of that lawsuit?" Downton responded that he is "not sure of that."
Bugaj asked if, to Downton's knowledge, Kellogg Road had any other main road access besides Kellogg Road.
"The Darl Haynes property has been improved with a house," Bugaj said. To gain access to the main road, Maple Grove Road, the Haynes' travel on Kellogg Road until it meets the junction of Maple Grove Road.
Downton said he is "not sure" what access to a main road the Haynes' may have on the Scott Township side.
Drawing the line
Bugaj also posed a question to Downton regarding the proposed adoption of a new survey map.
The decision to have maps surveyed was made at the June 5 regular meeting, with council member Art Kopp opposed.
At that meeting, Kopp stated, "I think we should save our money. It's never been a problem for 40 years."
Downton said the reason behind having the land surveyed is that the October 2007 Resolution Map, drawn up by a previous council, does not match the original map of the borough. The seven-and-a-half square mile section in question includes a portion of the Haynes' properties.
When asked by Bugaj what the difference was between the previous map and the proposed new map, Downton said there was a difference "in the borough line." This difference would place property currently in the borough into Scott Township.
When asked if council would be taking any action on the new map, dubbed the Rutherford Map, Downton said no action would be taken at this time.
"How does Scott Township maintain their portion of the road (Kellogg Road)?," Bugaj asked. "I don't know," Downton replied.
Hearing from the Haynes'
The hearing moved on to take testimony from property and homeowner Darl Haynes.
Haynes says his taxes "have always been paid to Starrucca Borough" since his home was built.
Bugaj asked Haynes if he had used any road in the borough to access his land and home on Kellogg Road, to which he said "No."
Haynes also said that he uses his property to hunt, fish and for logging. He owns one property jointly with his brother, Darwin, and a 158 acre property with his wife, Carol. Of the 158 acres, 18 are located in the borough. Darl Haynes' primary dwelling is located on those 18 acres.
"I totally object to vacating it," he said.
Another sticking point for Bugaj is if the Rutherford map is adopted, it will move property into Scott Township.
"The only (main road) access is to go to Maple Grove Road and to Kellogg Road, even if the property is in Scott Township," Bugaj asked. Haynes agreed.
"How bad is the maintenance," Bugaj asked.
Haynes said in the "last three or four years is when the legal action started," because "no preventative action was taken to maintain" Kellogg Road.
One maintenance issue for the road are six pipes that discharge water from a nearby pond. Haynes said the last pipes were put in "around 2006."
He said the problems with the pipes "are ongoing, but in the past the borough maintained" them. "If the road was maintained it wouldn't cost nearly as much" to maintain.
Darl Haynes was asked if his wife, Carol, needed to use the road to go to the family barn, located on Maple Grove Road.
He said, "Yes, multiple times a day she uses it."
Bugaj asked Darl Haynes' opinion on the reasoning behind why the recent survey was conducted.
"My opinion is that the survey was done to kick us out of Starrucca Borough," he said.
Waldron asked Haynes if prior to 2007, was the property in Scott Township or Starrucca Borough. Haynes said that the "tax map says Starrucca."
Waldron asked if there were any attempts prior to vacate the road. Haynes said, "not to my knowledge."
Darwin Haynes and Carol Haynes also said they object to the vacation of the road. Property owner Paul Neslon, who was not present at the meeting, did submit correspondence stating he objected as well.
Bugaj then asked if there could be a "show of hands vote" to record how many were for and against vacating Kellogg Road.
"We're not taking a vote on it, no," Downton said.
During the public comment section of the hearing, residents of the borough readily gave their opinion on the matter.
Robert Buck said he was "against vacating any road in borough, it's stupid." Fred Rhone, Ron Brownell and Roland Buck were also all opposed to vacating the road. Roland Buck called vacating the road "nonsense."
Kirk Rhone spoke up and said he was on borough council from 2004-2008. He said when he was on council the roads "were in good shape then," and that he was against vacating the road.
Others in the crowd also spoke loudly against vacating the road.
If the road is vacated by the borough, those who live on or own property on that road will still be allowed to use the road. Traffic from the general public would be denied.
The hearing concluded at 7:50 p.m.
The decision was made by council to table the issue until the next regular meeting on Nov. 4 at 7 p.m.
Kellogg Road is currently still in the borough.