Cape County residents push for paving of dusty road

Tuesday, September 11, 2001

NEELY'S LANDING, Mo. -- Dust churned up by 100 trucks a day hauling rock from a nearby quarry and a blind curve make Cape Girardeau County Road 525 north of Neely's Landing a treacherous route, say residents who want the county to pave it.

But the county commission says it won't pave the two miles of road from Route J to County Road 535 and straighten the curve unless all the property owners bordering the road sign easements.

An estimated 15 property owners have land that borders the road. All but one are willing to grant easements, residents said.

Arthur Headrick is the single holdout. Headrick owns land on both sides of County Road 525, including a fenced, overgrown lot with an abandoned mobile home on the east side of the blind curve. But he lives miles away in Cape Girardeau.

Headrick didn't return a reporter's telephone calls on Monday. His employer said Headrick had received the messages but likely wouldn't comment.

The holdout has left residents, some of whom began the process a decade ago, frustrated with both Headrick and the county's paving policy.

Dorothy Haselbauer lives not far from what area residents call "dead man's curve." She routinely battles the dust and truck traffic.

"Somebody is going to be killed here," said Haselbauer.

Longtime problem

The problem isn't new.

"It's always been bad," said Haselbauer, who has lived in the area for more than 70 years.

Gravel trucks raising constant clouds of dust roll through the middle of the narrow county road to navigate around the sharp curve not far from Neely's Landing Quarry.

The heavy traffic also makes for a rough road that ruins passenger tires.

"There are a lot of blowouts. It's like a washboard," said Ann Quade, who lives in the area. "The dust is so thick that when you pass a truck you can't see for a few seconds. It is a bad road. I think it would be a whole lot safer if it were paved."

The quarry operators want the road paved too. Jeff Dunford, general manager of the quarry, said the road is dangerous for truck drivers and residents.

"We are concerned for the safety of all the drivers who use the road," said Dunford.

Truck traffic is particularly heavy these days with rock being hauled to the nearby Procter & Gamble plant as construction proceeds on a large warehouse.

Larry Bock, 1st District county commissioner, understands the concern. "It's one of the most dangerous roads in the county," he said.

But Bock said the county commission's policy, adopted in March 1999, requires 100 percent of the property owners along a gravel road to provide 30-foot easements for any paving project.

County pays for paving

The county pays the paving costs, which typically include gravel shoulders and drainage ditches. The cost usually runs $60,000 to $65,000 a mile. But Bock said it would cost more to pave County Road 525 because it would have to be built to withstand the heavy truck traffic.

The commission legally could go to court to condemn Headrick's land so the road could be paved. But Bock said the commission hasn't condemned property on previous county road projects and doesn't plan to do so now.

Ron Mayfield lives on County Road 535, which connects to County Road 525. He regularly travels through the dust.

"It doesn't do any good to wash the car," he said.

He's angry over the county's inaction. Mayfield said county commissioners several years ago agreed to pave the road. But Bock said the entire commission never promised to pave the road.

Even prior to the road policy, the commission sought agreement from adjoining property owners before paving a county road, Bock said.

Mayfield said the commission should condemn Headrick's land, if necessary, to get the road paved. "They should go ahead and do whatever it takes to get it done," he said.

mbliss@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 123

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