Monday, May 13th, 2013
By William Kincaid
Who owns the roadway?
Several jurisdictions debate responsibility for West Bank Road
  CELINA - West Bank Road needs repair but multiple government agencies are trying to sort out in whose jurisdiction most of the 1.2 mile stretch of road lies.
The Ohio Department of Transportation, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, Celina, Mercer County and Jefferson Township all are involved in an ongoing discussion about ownership of the road, according to Mercer County Engineer Jim Wiechart. The parties will gather for a meeting sometime this month.
ODOT vacated a section of the road from the city limits to Monroe Road to the county roadway system in 1978, Celina Safety Service Director Tom Hitchcock said at a recent council meeting.
A small portion of the road - from near Big Bamboo's Dockside Grille to the first fire hydrant south of that restaurant - is in the city's jurisdiction, according to the Celina Mayor Jeff Hazel.
West Bank Road was formerly known as state Route 703, Denise Heitkamp of ODOT told the newspaper this morning. On Oct. 31, 1978, according to a record known as the Journal of the Director of Transportation, "the abandonment of a portion of state Route 703 situated in Jefferson Township and the City of Celina, Mercer County, Ohio, same to revert in part to the Mercer County Highway System and in part to the City of Celina Street System, to be effective immediately."
Heitkamp could not comment further on the snafu.
"We need to defer this subject to the county engineer and the City of Celina due to the fact that ODOT does not have jurisdiction over the area in question," she said this morning.
Wiechart said the situation is one of the most unusual he's ever encountered and called it very complex, as it involves lapping areas of local and state jurisdiction, state-owned property and a retaining wall that ODNR has some control over.
More importantly, whichever entity ultimately is delegated jurisdiction will be responsible for the long-term maintenance of the road, Wiechart said.
Wiechart said West Bank Road repair estimates range from $80,000 to $850,000 based on the types of improvements to be pursued.
"Last year, after multiple complaints and internal concerns over the shape of the road, we began the inquiry process to have a determination of what governmental entity actually had responsibility for the road so there could be a decision on who needs to repair and what actually should be performed to the road," Hazel told the newspaper. "In general, most people believe 'someone' should simply repave the roadway. Unfortunately, it's not that simple since a road surface is only as good as its base."
Hazel said Wiechart has worked hard to ascertain the chain of events from when ODOT relinquished ownership/responsibility of the road to the Mercer County Highway System.
"Since that time, various state and local departments have been pulled into the research and discussion of the road," Hazel said. "There have also been some concerns regarding what constitutes the 'dam' for Grand Lake (curb/seawall/sidewalk/existing concrete slab beneath the road base, etc.) since the west bank is what contains the water."
Hazel said it appears the city has taken it upon itself to plow, patch and/or fill potholes since complaints were generated from Celina residents and property owners residing to the west of the road.
"South of the first fire hydrant, the city's annexation line is west of the west right-of-way line of the road, which puts itself outside of the city's corporate boundary," he said.
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