Claremore Daily Progress

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July 23, 2013

Keetonville Road issue flares after 5-year closure

CLAREMORE — Several citizens spoke against the installation of a gate across Keetonville Road Monday at the Rogers County Commissioner’s meeting; however, their concerns had no impact as commissioner Mike Helm decided to install the fence across the roadway.

The board discussed an agenda item presented by Helm to allow property owner Larry Helton to build a fence around his property across the roadway.

Helton owns property on both sides of the road and toward the Verdigris River. He has built a boat landing and park facility on the east side of Keetonville Road, just south of the road failure zone.

Despite the board’s decision as a whole to take no action, Helm acted on his authority, stating he will install the gate.

The discussion turned quickly from concern for the fence to concern for why the road has never been fixed.

The citizens were angered that Helton’s concerns were being addressed, when they felt their concerns about safety on Keetonville Road were not.

“When are you going to fix our road? When are you going to widen it, resurface it and fix the bridges?” Steve Rayford asked. “Right now, our road is dangerous and I would like to see things improved.”

Another citizen took exception as well saying, “Nobody gets wishes granted until we get our wishes granted,” claiming Helton’s request is being met prior to other residents along the road.

At one point, a member of the crowd yelled, “We need a new commissioner,” to which Helm responded, “Good luck.”

“I am just wondering what type of precedent this is going to set,” Sharon Forest said.

Commissioner Dan DeLozier said if the road were in his district it would have already been fixed by now.

Commissioner Kirt Thacker had to calm the crowd more than once as the discussion continued.

Helton was seeking a fence similar to the one the county has installed on the north side of the road failure on Keetonville Road.

Helton claims to have issues with vandalism and theft near the river on his property.

Helm said that a complaint has been filed with the Rogers County Sheriff’s Office.

Helton told the Claremore Progress approximately 10 months ago that Helm said he would personally get the paperwork approved to close the roadway on his property.

Helton asked the county to vacate the easement during Monday’s meeting, allowing him to take possession of the roadway.

Residents are concerned about the addition of a fence and access to the roadway; additionally they challenged Helm on the legality of the decision to install the fence.

The citizens took issue with the possibility of Helton gaining possession of the roadway because it would be difficult to regain right-of-way if and when the road is repaired in the future.

Thacker questioned the legality of giving right of way to a private citizen on a county section line road. However,  Helm claims only a portion of the road is part of a section line.

Once Helton withdrew his question and gave Helm permission to build the gate across his property, the issue became void.

It was not made clear exactly where the fence would be located, only that it would be south of the current barricade that is being used to close the road.

No conclusive answer was provided on any legal aspect other than the county has the right to close a road.

Helm did indicate that Helton and other property owners would have access to the road via a code, just as is provided on the north side of the failure zone.

Helm installed a fence on the north side to secure the roadway after receiving complaints about illegal dumping on the river.

Some of the citizens and Thacker questioned Helm about why the item was even listed on the agenda.

Helm said he consulted with Assistant District Attorney David Iski and it was determined it was best to add the item to the agenda.

A complete video of the meeting is available courtesy of Claremore Daily Progress via www.youtube.

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