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Kingwood residents ask council to fix bad roads

KINGWOOD — How can a street be inside the city and not be the city’s responsibility to maintain?
That’s the question posed to city council by residents in two sections of Kingwood recently. Council’s reply is that the streets were never “dedicated” by deed to the city, as required under city ordinance. To be dedicated, they must meet city specifications.
But an opinion by the Kingwood Sewer Board’s attorney seems to indicate that may not matter.
Attorney David C. Glover, of Smith, McMunn & Glover, PLLC, responded to a query by Wellsley Street resident Russell Calvert about the status of Bishop Street. Council earlier told Calvert, who represented a group of homeowners, that Bishop is not part of the city system.
After Glover’s opinion was issued, council asked its attorney, Chris Miller, for an opinion as well. That hasn’t been received yet.
Calvert sent a Freedom of Information Act request to Kingwood and the Kingwood Sewer Board, asking for: Proof of ownership of Bishop Street, proof that Green and Manown streets were dedicated to the city, and a copy of the right-of-way or deed from Wellsley to Pritt (known as Bishop Street).
Glover replied, “The Halbritter-Pritt Addition was annexed by the City in the 1940s. The City assumed ownership of the streets and maintained the streets. The City maintains sewer facilities under the streets in the Halbritter-Pritt Addition and maintains the streets. By virtue of that, the City possesses an easement across the streets (opened streets and unopened streets) pursuant to West Virginia Code 8-18-1 and 8-12-5.”
In a second letter, Glover “clarified” that while the city possesses an easement across the streets, “the City of Kingwood has never paved Bishop Street or the unnamed street you referenced in this request.”
Bishop Street is within the Halbritter-Pritt Addition.
Glover also wrote that the city doesn’t have any of the documents Calvert requested. Documents on property ownership are held by the county clerk, he said.
Calvert and the others don’t understand the city’s hesitation. The short section of Bishop they want paved runs between Albright Road and Wellsley Street. Street signs at either end mark the area. A former city clerk told them streets with black and white signs are owned by the city.
Bishop continues across Wellsley, between Calvert’s house and one owned by Jason Peaslee. It ends at a city sewage lift station. When the lift station was first built, residents were told the road would be paved.
“It just went back and forth,” Calvert said. “One time they’d say it was in and one time they’d say it wasn’t [dedicated]. It’s because of the lift station that Bishop’s in the shape it is.”
City workers go to the station most days, Calvert said, and every few years equipment is brought in to do work at the station.
After they asked for the upper part of Bishop to be paved, city workers stopped using the road and began driving around the block to the lower portion of Bishop, Calvert said.
The residents note that KAMP Ambulance is also on Wellsley, and when, as was the case last year, Green Street is closed for utility or other work, ambulances could use Bishop as the backup road to reach W.Va. 26 (Albright Road). As it is, he’s seen a delivery truck get stuck on the road.
The city says Bishop stops at Wellsley, Calvert said. If that’s the case, he’d like to see the right-of-way property owners signed to allow access to the lift station. So far he’s been shown a paper that allowed the station to be moved less than 50 feet.
“Everyone just shakes their head when they realize it’s only 100 feet I want paved,” Calvert said.
Rodeheaver Addition
In the Rodeheaver Addition, residents along Von, Cord and Frank streets, all off Joy Street, also are frustrated.
Last week, resident Justin Haymond said he will file a complaint with the West Virginia Ethics Commission because council refused requests to maintain the roads and stop water from Joy damaging their property.
Mayor Jean Guillot said he understands why people may not understand how the city can refuse to care for streets inside the city. And developers may not tell buyers the streets are undedicated, he said.
Guillot would like the city planning commission to look into writing subdivision regulations, which would require developers to build streets and utilities up to city standards..
“Along with proper ditching, the power lines, and your sewer and your water lines and gas lines, everything should be up to code,” Guillot said. “We’re waiting to hear about the roads from our attorney. And depending on what he says, we’re going to green light the planning commission to look into it.”
He hopes to have an answer from the attorney within two weeks.