by Johnny Woodard
Since moving into his Wagram home eight years ago, Mumin Muhaimin has contacted dozens of local and state government officials in an effort to have much-needed improvements made to the dirt road leading to his neighborhood.
With few exceptions, they all came back with the same response.
“They have said that there wasn’t anything they could do,” Muhaimin said.
To him, that answer is unacceptable.
“It’s like I am paying taxes for nothing,” said Muhaimin, who is joined by several other families living off of the cratered, often deluged and impassable Luther Drive.
“Some days I can’t even get out of here. It depends on how hard it rains.”
Muhaimin says that he has spent hundreds on automobile repairs made necessary by the constant slogging up and down the road to his home.
According to Muhaimin, parcel service drivers won’t even brave the road to bring him packages.
“Even the police don’t want to come down here,” said Muhaimin, worried about what might happen if there is an emergency.
“This is North Carolina we are talking about, and we can’t get anything done.”
State Department of Transportation spokesman Steve Abbott said that in order for a rural road to be added to the list of state maintained roads it must meet several criteria and be added by the Board of Transportation.
In addition to width and accessibility requirements, the state also requires that the road have “at least five occupied residences fronting the road or with direct entrance to the road.”
In his most recent e-mail to Muhaimin, Abbott said that Luther Drive “is not part of the state system” and, as a private road, can not legally be worked on by the Department of Transportation.
“So even if we wanted to do the repair work, legally we can’t. That would be the responsibility of the owner or owners of the road, which is often the residents on the road themselves,” Abbott told Muhaimin.
Asked why residents living on the road haven’t taken the initiative to repair it themselves, Muhaimin says that they have tried and failed a number of times.
“Five years ago a bulldozer came in and fixed it. That lasted for a little while, but now it is as bad as before. This problem has to be solved for good.”
Although Muhaimin said that he has already contacted Scotland County government officials, Abbott encouraged him to petition the Scotland County Board of Commissioners at its Sept. 4 meeting.
“…You would be doing so in a public forum, where your concerns may be heard by an individual or group that may have a solution to the problem,” Abbott wrote. “I’m sorry I couldn’t provide a more positive response, but in a case like this, NCDOT has no options.”
Scotland County Government official Lynn Poe said that requests like Muhaimin’s, although fairly uncommon (the last coming in May of this year), typically involve a petition process during which the petitioner would fill out a form asking that the county submit the road to the NC DOT for maintenance.
“Five years ago the state said they would do something and they didn’t do anything,” said Muhaimin, who believes he has explored almost every option available to him.
“Don’t they have some emergency money somewhere to help people in this situation? This is definitely an emergency, and this is definitely not a private road.”
Muhaimin refers to an incident where a resident attempting to block Luther Drive was told that they could not do so by law enforcement as evidence that the avenue is not private.
Unfortunately for Muhaimin, it seems that all roads lead back to the North Carolina Department of Transportation. State Rep. Garland Pierce, who first heard from Muhaimin earlier this summer, said that he forwarded all of Muhaimin’s messages to DOT representatives.
“I just passed him on, because he has to talk to the DOT about it. I will give him credit, though. He has been working on it for a long time.”
Laurinburg City Manager Ed Burchins said that, in cases where residents have problems with roads inside the city limits, the city almost always forwards the requests on to the DOT. A similar policy exists with the Scotland County government’s petition process.
Having sent letters and made phone calls to Congressman Larry Kissell, Pierce, the governor, the Department of Transportation, Scotland County government and a number of other entities — all in vain — Muhaimin thinks he may be at the end of his rope.
If nothing can be done, Muhaimin fears that he will be forced to move from the land on which his family has lived for decades.
“If they can’t fix this road, I can’t imagine continuing to go through rivers to get out every time it rains.”
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