Highway widening project may take out six structures, Green Forest residents told

Friday, February 9, 2007

GREEN FOREST -- More than 80 residents showed up Tuesday for a Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department (AHTD) public meeting on the U.S. Hwy. 62 widening project.

Leo Priest, AHTD employee, said about six structures were proposed to be removed to allow for the project, which would start a quarter mile east of Hickman Lane and end shortly after the County Road 803 turn off, stretching 1.68 miles.

The project is scheduled to be open for bids this project year.

Nancy Ratzlaff owns a rental house on the corner of the highway and Coin Road; she said she was told during the Tuesday meeting that it would probably be "taken.

"I think good roads are essential to the country," said Ratzlaff, "to have gain, you have to have a little pain."

Another structure proposed to be removed during the construction was Empire Pump Service and Shudy Drilling, located at 9868 Hwy. 62 East and owned by Mike and Louann Shudy.

"We had heard rumors and assumed that we would be moved," said Louann, "but we didn't know until tonight; but this plan is still a proposed deal.

"I think we need the road, I just wish it wasn't going through our corner."

AHTD Employee Langston Carr assured Louann that once the department gets in the relocation stage, they will contact the property owners. "Everything will be given fair market value," Carr told Louann, "even trees on the property."

Carr went on to say the meeting was "just to share the information we have at this point, we are still in the process of surveying."

However, not all of the property owners were as compliant as the Shudys and Ratzlaffs.

Sheldon and Gwenda Fryar, of 870 Hwy. 62 East, said the proposed plan was "not okay" with them.

"If they are going to build a road, they should build a new road that is straight," said Sheldon, whose shed falls on the line of construction, but not his house, which is located 30 feet behind the shed.

"They are not fixing the corner, where all the wrecks happen," continued Sheldon, "and they are just contributing to the curves."

Gwenda said she was told that the highway department did not have to take the entire property. "If they are going to take that much," she said, "Why not take the house, too? Who wants to sleep that close to the highway? It's not right."

She also had concerns about the traffic a four-lane would bring in regards to school bus stops.

Kelly (Hayhurst) Brown, former city council member whose land at 1516 Meadow Court was shown to be affected, said she felt like she attended the meeting for "nothing.

"They really didn't tell me how much of my land they were going to take,"?she said. "I assume it's more but they didn't have the existing easements lines to compare.

"I wanted to visually see where it was now, and where it was going to be."

Brown said she was told Tuesday that this was the last public meeting about this project, and the next time she would be contacted would be to confirm what they were going to do, and tell her how much they would pay for her land.

Brown also inquired about the East Ridge sewer system that was recently constructed by the city.

She said the sewer line was not on the map, and she was told that if the sewer line was constructed in the highway department's easement, the city would have to pay to move it.

However, during an interview with Mayor Richard Deweese, he said the sewer lines were set 30 to 40 feet off the highway, and he didn't foresee them being affected by the current project.

Although some residents attended the meeting to discuss the project at hand, Ruby Jordan, AHTD employee, said several came "wanting to know what we were planning to go through town.

"We have nothing to share on that," she said. "I suggested to concerned citizens to write on the survey about the issue. When we do have more information to share, we will definitely hold another public meeting."

She said "a lot of people" made notes on the subject and she would take their comments back to the state department for review.

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