Students damage dirt road; commissioners prompted to develop new policy

Published 12:08 am Thursday, October 15, 2015

The Covington County Commission has asked its attorney to write a new policy for handling legal matters when county property is damaged or destroyed.

Sheriff Dennis Meeks raised the question Wednesday morning, calling into question the handling of a recent incident in which a deputy investigated destruction of a road.

“Last week, your dirt road was torn up pretty good,” the sheriff said. “We spent a lot of time on finding those guys who did it, and did a lot of interviews. Where do we stand as far as the repairs on that road, and who’s gonna pay for it?”

It was later explained that a group of college students were mud riding on a recent, rainy Sunday afternoon and did considerable damage to the dirt portion of Braswell Road. A property owner used his vehicle to block some of those involved until deputies arrived.

Commissioner Harold Elmore said, who lives on the road in question, said he talked with County Engineer Darren Capps about the damage and was told $500 would cover the damages.

“They come down to my house about two weeks ago,” Elmore said. “They said they were sorry and all agreed to try to get a little money up. I told them I wasn’t gone call their parents.

“It was six young boys, and they were sorry for what they done,” Elmore said. “They just got off and done something they didn’t need to do. They apologized.”

Chairman Bill Godwin expressed concern that other commissioners were not notified of the damage or the decision.

Meeks said at the time of the investigation, the deputy could not drive through the destruction on the road without risking being in a ditch.

“He had to park and walk down to where they were,” Meeks said.

Godwin said, “I think I think I know where sheriff is coming from. If we’re not willing to prosecute, he may not be willing to do the investigation next time.”

Both Godwin and Meeks added that the time spent investigating the damage also added to the county’s expense.

Commissioners had been told that the students not at the scene that night later turned themselves in, but Meeks said that was not the case.

“The investigator went to LBW, found out who it was, made contact and asked them to come in,” he said.

Elmore asked for a resolution.

“At this time, I’d like for us make a resolution. Then I want have to make decision, and you won’t have to get on me like you did this morning,” Elmore said to Godwin.

Meeks said the students could have been charged with criminal mischief.

“It’s just like if a motor grader was parked and someone busted the windows out in it. If we found out who did it you’d want to prosecute that. Destruction is destruction. It costs the county money.”

Commissioners asked attorney Stacey Brooks to write a proposed policy for dealing with issues like this in the future.