County commission agrees to imminent domain issue

Published 12:00 am Sunday, March 23, 2003

A new bridge planned for construction later this year has produced a bit more debate than many projects of its kind.

The Lawrence County Commission this week voted 2-1 to appropriate approximately one acre of land from the Ronald Dornon property to build the bridge.

Dornon owns land along County Road 67, near the historic Scottown Covered Bridge. Lawrence County plans to use some $400,000 in federal highway monies to build a new span near the old covered bridge crossing Indian Guyan Creek. To build a new bridge and leave the old historic bridge intact, transportation officials needed additional land and offered Dornon approximately $3,000 for some of his bottom land.

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Dornon and transportation engineers disagreed on what portion of his property should be used for the bridge and its approach. Dornon had preferred the state take a strip of land more toward the end of his property, while engineers wanted to move the bridge closer to the center of his land.

The commission Thursday voted 2-1 to appropriate Dornon's property. Commissioners Doug Malone and Jason Stephens voted to take the strip of land; Commission President George Patterson was very vocal in opposing the idea.

"I agree the project needs to go -- I believe in progress. But don't take citizens' property and tear up their lives," Patterson said. "I've got a problem with that. I don't believe you should trample on your citizens."

Patterson said Dornon's property was also worth more than the $3,000 he was offered for it, since he derives an income by harvesting hay off the site.

But Stephens countered that the county commission had actually agreed to make the land appropriation three years ago, and the decision is being made for the greater good.

"I think it is the responsible thing to do," Stephens said. "It's good for the whole community. I don't like to take people's property, but the Scottown bridge is 130 years old. We need a new bridge there."

The Ironton Tribune attempted to contact Dornon for his comments about the situation. He was not available for comment at press time.

Lawrence County Engineer David Lynd stressed that the old covered bridge will remain in place and intact, and will not be closed while the new span is built. Lynd said the covered bridge, built in the 1870s, will probably be used in another capacity in the future, and could be limited to pedestrians or bike traffic to preserve it for future generations.