SHOALS — Adam Greene and Cody Roush talked to the Martin County commissioners at the meeting Tuesday night about a notice they received from the Department of Natural Resources saying they must remove their cabins on West River Road, along the White River, or they will be fined $500 a day.

According to the DNR, the cabins are in a floodplain and proper permitting was not acquired prior to erecting the cabins, despite them having been built years ago. According to a letter Greene received from DNR, the “unauthorized activities” pose an “unreasonable hazard to the safety of life or property through the construction and use of a residence or adobe in the floodway.”

Roush told the commissioners that there are cabins and other structures up and down the White River and he is not sure why Martin County is being picked on. The cabin owners wanted to know what the commissioners could do to help.

County attorney Dave Lett said that he has advised the commissioners to let the state handle the enforcement of the matter — it’s not a county issue. Commissioner Paul George said that when the DNR came to talk to them a few years ago, threatening to enforce this floodplain issue, the commissioners told the DNR representative that they were not on board with the plan. He said the county does not have zoning and was not interested in enforcing what taxpayers build on their own properties.

Lett suggested that Greene, Roush and any other property owner pool their resources to hire an attorney. He also suggested that they speak to their state representatives to see if they could get something done. Both men said they have contacted their state representatives and have not received a call back.

In other business, Lett said that it was decided not to seek bids for ambulance service for the county and to continue with Knox County EMS at a cost of $210,000 a year for the next four years. He presented the new contract to the commissioners that will expire on June 30, 2023. There have been no changes to the contract for Knox County EMS for the past eight years. Commissioner Kevin Boyd voted against the contract however it was approved with the votes of George and Dan Gregory. Boyd did not say why he was opposed.

The commissioners voted to re-open West River Road to all traffic since the erosion issues have been repaired.

The commissioners approved for the highway department to repave three roads using county funds that were not a part of matching grant funds or Community Crossings grant monies. These will be done by highway department workers. Those roads include Mill Road to Lauck Lane, Rusk Road to Spencer Hollow Road and Graded Road to Sawmill Road. This paving will be contingent on available funds.

The commissioners approved Terri Alcorn to serve as the county’s Americans with Disabilities Act Coordinator. Having an ADA coordinator is a state requirement to qualify for grants.

The commissioners discussed whether to allow Frontier to have right-of-way to install internet cable down certain roads in the county. Discussion followed about whether this would prevent other companies being able to install or upgrade services for residents. In the end, the commissioners approved allowing the right-of-way with the provision that Frontier cannot install in the ditches and must be in communication with the highway department prior to any work being done.

Phil Todd, with the Martin County Historical Society, asked what the next step is on getting the property behind the county museum transferred to the historical society. The property, containing a house, is currently owned by the county. Lett said the first step is to get the county surveyor to mark the property. Todd asked if the historical society could go ahead and start tearing down the house and the county attorney replied that it would be better to wait until the land was surveyed and the property was deeded to the historical society.

George said that next year is the county’s 200th anniversary. He would like the commissioners to plan some sort of celebration for the bicentennial.

Animal Control Deputy Josh Hughett reported that there are currently 87 inmates in the jail with 29 of them from Vigo County.

Kathy Collins, Community Corrections director, asked Lett if he had been able to work out the new lease for their building on Southeast First Street in Loogootee. She said the current landlord, Teresa Nolley, said they could continue the current lease without signing a new one, but Collins said she would prefer to have a new one put together with signatures. Lett said he would speak to Nolley to see if there were any changes needed in the lease agreement and draft a new one.

Representatives of Four Rivers submitted their budget request for 2020 along with data on the services they provide to the county. They have been approved for $2,000 in the past however the commissioners said they would increase the request this year to try and get Four Rivers $2,500.

The commissioners approved the highway department to now take over maintenance of Sawmill Ridge Road. The developers had made the request several months ago. Highway Superintendent Leo Padgett said he has inspected the road and it meets county specs and he has no issue taking over the road. All the property owners on the road are also in favor.

Editor's note: More on the situations involving the DNR and cabins along the river will be in an upcoming edition of the Times Herald.

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