By Joshua Allen
ONL Staff Reporter
A disgruntled man took advantage of the time allotted for public appearances before the Board of County Commissioners Monday at a regular meeting of the Okfuskee County governing body where, in the end and after discussion, no solution was reached.
The still-unresolved issue revolved around the use (or nonuse) of what is thought to be an abandoned road in the Boley area — an old section line road already broken into different segments with grassland between — called 3650 Road.
Kevin Bryant, who lives in Oklahoma County and owns a couple 40-plus-acre lots near the road in question, said he uses the closed thoroughfare for access to an area of his property used for hunting.
He told commissioners at Monday’s meeting he wanted written permission, allowing him to use the road freely, or official documentation showing when the road was closed and abandoned by way of a county resolution, voted on and passed by the board of commissioners.
Bryant’s argument, in a nutshell, seemed to be as follows:
If there is no documentation or commissioners’ meeting minutes to show when, why and how the road was closed, Bryant argues it is still a public road, thus meaning he should not need permission in order to use it.
However, it could be the case that the road was not properly closed down — or officially “abandoned” — by the county government, which would technically mean it is still an open, public road.
According to Okfuskee County Clerk Diane Flanders, Bryant has discussed wanting to use the closed road in years past, possibly going back as many as 10 years. As is still the case, he has not been successful in getting the requested written permission from Commissioner Danny Wilson — his district being where the old section line road lay.
At Monday’s meeting Wilson said he would not “give him anything in writing,” citing liability concerns for the county.
Flanders said the meetings over the years between Bryant and Wilson have not always been pleasant and have, at times, led to confrontational, verbal arguments.
The de facto abandoned and unfenced road is not maintained by the county — Flanders explaining the governing body receives no funding for such maintenance. Instead, the property — now looking similar to the pasture and grassland it butts up against — is maintained by a local church.
It seems the issues for Bryant arise with the aforementioned maintenance fact. It’s not the county or anyone else that tells Bryant he can’t use the road to access his hunting land.
Members or individuals associated with the church are who are telling Bryant he cannot use the road, likely — though mistakenly — thinking it is property of the church’s, since it is adjacent and connected to property that is the church’s.
It is for that reason, Bryant wants written permission from Wilson, so when approached, he can explain that he is legally allowed to be there.
With that request for written permission — or several requests over the years, according to Flanders — still not granted, Bryant resorted to asking to see the proper documentation that would show its closing and abandonment.
Okfuskee County Assistant District Attorney Emily Mueller, clearing up any legal questions with her presence at the meeting, said the documentation should be given to or shown to Bryant if it’s there.
Mueller explained that, if abandoned and closed through the proper channels at a past commissioner meeting, any documentation on the former section line road would be public record and could be obtained by filing an Open Records Act request to see any meeting minutes pertaining to the matter.
As for Flanders, she didn’t seem to think it likely any documentation from a past meeting, officially closing the road would be found.
“In the many years I’ve been here, I don’t remember it coming up (outside Bryant approaching Wilson about written permission over the years),” she told the News Leader after the meeting.
“I’m going to have to see if I can find anything,” she said. “I’m definitely checking into the situation, and I’m going to try and find that for him … if it’s even there.”
Okfuskee County — as far as the commissioners, clerk and governing body — has not told Bryant the area-once-a-road was off limits to him, but Wilson nor either of the other two commissioners would give him written permission to use it until the matter can be more sorted out and the proper abandonment documentation is found or it is determined it is nonexistent.
The Okfuskee County Board of County Commissioners meets every Monday at 9 a.m. The meetings are open to the public with the agenda posted a few days before each meeting.