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Prosecutor: Engineer should have been consulted

FAYETTE TOWNSHIP — A pathway along Burlington-Macedonia Road should have been constructed by the Lawrence County Engineer, not by the township trustee who laid the gravel.

That is the opinion of assistant prosecuting attorney Jeffrey Smith.

In mid-October Lawrence County Commissioners approved Fayette Township Trustee Mike Finley’s plan to create the path to provide a way for those using wheelchairs or pushing baby strollers to keep them out of the middle of Burlington-Macedonia Road as they travel to the shopping center on U.S. 52.

Finley, who did the work himself and said he did not use public funds, did not consult with County Engineer Doug Cade, who sought a prosecutor’s opinion because he said the work was in violation of the Ohio Revised Code.

“ORC 5573.01 is very clear that only the county engineer has the authority to develop plans and specifications for the construction of any road improvement for county and township roads,” Cade wrote in his letter to Prosecuting Attorney Brigham Anderson.

Cade also wrote the project was constructed without local, state or federal standards.

“I believe this has led to potential liability of this office and the county should an unfortunate accident occur or taxpayer wish to pursue the issue,” the letter stated.

Smith’s opinion dated Nov. 7 confirms Cade should have been consulted about the design and the actual work.

“It is the opinion of this office that the construction of public sidewalks along the public right of way of public highways located outside any municipal corporation in the county may be approved by the board of county commissioners or board of township trustees, but shall be planned, designed and constructed by the county engineer in accordance with Ohio RC 5543.10 and 5543.11,” Smith writes.

He also advises that the commissioners consider rescinding their resolution or amend it to accept the plan for the path and submit it to Cade.

“Subject to the requirement that the county engineer have general supervision of the construction of such sidewalk,” Smith writes.

Despite the opinion, Finley, who was defeated last week in his bid for re-election as a Fayette trustee, maintains he was trying to help his constituents.

“I don’t know what to think,” he said. “I guess the commissioners and I were wrong. I read what the Ohio Revised Code said. I don’t know if the prosecutor had all the right information or not. I just can’t see how you can put somebody out in the roadway and say that is public safety.”

Calls made to Cade and Commission President Bill Pratt were not returned by press time.