SEBRING — County commissioners have an agreement with state officials on Vaughn Road in today’s consent agenda for their 9 a.m. meeting.
The consent agenda consists of items commissioners have previously discussed and over which they have no acknowledged disagreements and plan to approve en masse. However, commissioners have been known to pull items from that list for further discussion, and Vaughn Road has been on the table for a while.
Up until now, county officials thought they had an agreement with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to fix the single-lane Vaughn Road bridge over Charlie Creek — at a cost of approximately $73,000 — split the cost with FDEP, then vacate the road to the state by way of Highlands Hammock State Park.
It would let the state park open its Equestrian Center and still leave the road with a usable bridge both for the horse riders, park vehicles and law enforcement officers with Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
County Administrator Randy Vosburg said at the May 7 meeting that he’d made the mistake of not getting everything in writing, because the state had balked on paying its half until after the county vacates the road, something the county didn’t want to do until getting paid.
It was a “lesson learned,” Vosburg said two weeks ago.
The county still has to hold public hearings on vacating that right of way, but county commissioners don’t expect much opposition to the matter. The Livingston family owns ranch land on both sides of the largely unused road, and attorney Robert Livingston told commissioners two weeks ago he’s fine with whatever agreement they reach with the state.
Under the agreement in front of the county right now, FDEP would be required to pay its half of the bridge cost — $36,943.33 — once the road vacation is complete.
In other business, the county will have a discussion on how to go about acquiring right of way in the Silver Fox subdivision to give residents on Mare Path a more secure, well-maintained way out of the subdivision that wouldn’t require them to drive over someone’s private land.
The most likely candidate for that right of way is Foal Path, a privately plowed road through private property done by a resident to give his neighbors a way out of their homes.
Another possible candidate would be along an ATV trail cut through private woods between roads in Orange Blossom Estates and Mare Path — to provide access and drainage.
County Engineer Clinton Howerton Jr. has said the county can’t do any road or drainage improvements in that area until it has dedicated right of way.
Drainage improvements, he said, would also have to align with results of a watershed study the county currently has under way for the area, through the Southwest Florida Water Management District.
Once the county had right of way in the area, residents can either hand it over to the county for maintenance or pay the county to make improvements, such as drainage, which is one of the reasons Foal Path has been such a difficult road.
During and after Hurricane Irma in 2017, Foal Path became slogged with mud and ruts, trapping some in the homes.
The ATV trail provided another problem: Funneling water and sediment from Orange Blossom Estates down Mare Path, washing out and rutting that road.
Residents in that area of Silver Fox subdivision have been talking with county officials about possible solutions since before Irma, but the storm and subsequent rainy season made the situation more urgent.