Resident Takes Legal Action Against County

By Tim Schmidt, Record Editor
Posted 11/7/19

A Warren County resident has taken legal action against the Warren County Commission after it ignored her requests to provide reasons why a county highway commission should not be formed. Wanda …

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Resident Takes Legal Action Against County


A Warren County resident has taken legal action against the Warren County Commission after it ignored her requests to provide reasons why a county highway commission should not be formed. Wanda Thomas filed a petition in mandamus on Sept. 1 in Warren County Circuit Court asking a judge to compel the commission to form a county highway commission pursuant to state statute. The petition stems from an ongoing debate between Thomas and the commission on the manner and process the county uses to pave roads with dedicated tax monies. In the past few months, Thomas has been a vocal critic of the county commission and its procedures related to road improvements. Thomas threatened legal action a couple of months ago in a letter asking the county to provide documentation on why a highway commission was not needed and to stop plans to pave certain county roads. The county did not respond to Thomas' letter. She said a highway commission is needed to assist the county commission in determining future road improvements. She also argued in the letter the county commission has no excuse to prevent them from forming a highway commission and is obligated to follow state statute. "It's sad everything comes to a legal issue with them," said Thomas, who is being represented by Troy lawyer William Cheeseman. "They don't have the well-being of the entire county. It's not something I wanted to do, but it's not right what they're doing." During an initial meeting with the commission in May, Thomas said she was appalled to learn that three of the roads to be paved this year - Shepard's Glen, Shetland and Royal Drive - were not thru streets. She argued that the county was paving "subdivision roads" or "somebody's driveway," comments that commissioners disagreed with since the roads have been maintained by the county for years. Thomas said more heavily traveled roads, such as Stracks Church Road and North Stringtown Road, should be a priority for commissioners. This is the first full year the county is receiving funds from the continuation of a half-cent capital improvement sales tax. County voters in February 2008 approved 70 percent of the sales tax revenue being allocated for road maintenance with the remaining 30 percent going for other capital improvements. The continuation of the sales tax went into effect July 1, 2010. The county used the funds collected last year to pave Schreckengast, Town Branch and Bluff roads. In addition to Shepard's Glen, Shetland and Royal Drive, the county commission plans on paving South Rock Church Road and Pendleton Cut-Off. Commissioners have commented repeatedly that the roads that are being paved first are ones where adjacent property owners are willing to give the county a 10-foot easement on each side. Commissioners strongly disagree with Thomas' interpretation of the state statute. They feel the statute is outdated and applied to a time when the county road system was being established at the same time ownership of the roads was being transferred to the Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT). "It (the statute) was probably used when they were first forming these roads," Presiding Commissioner Arden Engelage said. "When you look at the minutes, they had people in the areas working on the roads to get the easements and stuff like that. Years ago, the roads were pretty much taken over by MoDOT." Southern District Commissioner Hubie Kluesner said he contacted the state association which represents county commissions all across the state, and was told only one third-class county has a highway commission. He further explained first-class counties, the largest in the state, are required to have highway commissions. A highway commission is set up much like a planning and zoning commission and members are appointed by the county commission. The board's primary duties are to oversee road projects. The statute cited by Thomas states a highway commission member must be 25, be a county resident and be a "known supporter and advocate of a system of county highways, constructed and maintained with a view to affording the greatest convenience to the greatest number of inhabitants of the county in the matter of farm-to-market roads." In addition, a highway commission must be comprised of two people from both the northern and southern districts and have no more than two members from the same political party. Thomas feels there are qualified county residents willing to serve on the highway commission if asked. She said the county could accept applications to fill the positions should she win the legal battle. "If (the commission) won't do it, we can find four people who can give it a try," Thomas said. Commissioners said they weren't surprised about the lawsuit. Prior to being served court papers while in session last Tuesday by a Warren County deputy, Engelage said "we had heard a rumor and we were waiting on it."