Recently questions arose when Rogers County crews and equipment were spotted working on and parked on the private property of an individual homeowner.
A concerned citizen called the incident into the newspaper and voiced his worry that what he witnessed was evidence of unfair treatment of certain citizens, if not outright misconduct.
The Claremore Progress Staff independently verified the incident, and began digging into the possibility of wrongdoing, including possible business ties between the property owner and the county or county commissioner.
No wrongdoing or suspicious ties were found.
Still, according to the handbook for county commissioners of Oklahoma, county authorization regarding the use of county-owned equipment is limited to specific purposes.
Commissioners are authorized to “lease county tools, apparatus, machinery, or equipment to another political subdivision or state agency,” and to “utilize county-owned equipment, labor and supplies at their disposal on property owned by the county, public schools, two-year colleges, or technical branches of colleges that are members of the Oklahoma State System of Higher Education, the state, and municipalities, according to statutes.”
Commissioner Dan Delozier took the opportunity to answer the question he said comes up periodically.
“We have done this for a long time and we get a lot of calls about it,” Delozier said. “It’s a common misconception.”
When construction work is being done in front of someone’s house, Delozier said, people assume that it is being done specifically for that person and may be upset that it isn’t being done for them.
“We have a right and a responsibility to maintain our easements,” Delozier said.
“We clear right-of-way and overgrown fence rows all over the county,” Delozier said. “This is something we do to maintain our property, maintain our easement and keep the trees out of the road.”
Delozier said that the process is necessary to insure proper drainage along roadways, to allow the county to mow and to increase safety for drivers along curvy roads.
“If trees fall in the road we have to get called out after hours to take care of those,” he said.
Even if the debris in the roadway originated in private property, it is the county’s responsibility to maintain roadways for the safety of its citizens.
Keeping tree lines and brush pushed back from the roadway saves the county money and hassle in the long run, Delozier said.
County crews don’t do any work on behalf landowner.
If the landowner chooses to replace their fence line, then they pay for the cost and do that work themselves, Delozier said.
Typically when the county do this work along a fence line, it can take more than one day. Especially in inclement weather.
In those cases, equipment has to remain on the property overnight.
“Our easements are not very big in places. In some places we have quite a bit of easement, and we’re able to leave the equipment there. But most of the time, we do park the equipment on private property,” Delozier said.
They always get the property owner’s permission before leaving the equipment.
Delozier said that keeping the equipment behind a fence line often protects it from the vandalism that happens frequently when equipment is parked directly off the roadway.
“We don’t do anything for them other than park our equipment there,” Delozier said. “This is common all over the county and probably all over the state."