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Sparring siblings seek county intervention

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By LPR Staff
Editor/POST-REGISTER

What amounts to little more than a dirt and gravel path on the southern border of the Lockhart city limits was the catalyst that brought the Caldwell County Commissioners’ Court into the middle of a family feud on Monday.

During lengthy public hearing, the Court heard from a number of property owners regarding a con

troversy surrounding County Road 220 (Cunningham Road).

For weeks, Fred W. Wiegand has been discussing his claim with both the City of Lockhart and with the Caldwell County Commissioners. It is his position that CR 220, long neglected by Caldwell County maintenance but never officially abandoned by the Commissioners’ Court, should be officially abandoned, or developed into what he calls the “inner loop connecting Highway 183 and FM 20 East.”

Both of Wiegand’s sisters, Phyllis Metcalfe and Frederica Kinnard, own property that adjoins CR 220. The family dispute, it seems, is in Wiegand’s interpretation of how the property was divided, and what role CR 220 plays in that division.

Commissioner Tom Bonn has been working with the property owners to clarify the county’s role, if any, in the abandonment of CR 220. Although Bonn stated clearly at the beginning of the public hearing that the County has no official position on the property dispute between brother and sisters, that dispute became among the focal points of the hearing.

Both Metcalfe and Kinnard, along with adult children and grandchildren, informed the Commissioners that they support a formal abandonment of the right-of-way referred to as County Road 220. Kinnard, in fact, said that throughout her lifetime, no member of the public has accessed the road, and it has been used only by members of the family. Additionally, the dispute Wiegand’s claims that the road would be passable by public traffic, a position that was upheld by the Commissioners’ Court.

“The road is impassable because of the vegetation,” Bonn said. “And the bridge built by the property owners across Clear Fork Creek is in no way safe for public use.”

Wiegand also claimed the road should be preserved and maintained because it leads to a cemetery. However, Metcalfe and Kinnard said no such cemetery exists, and they cannot recall ever having been contacted by or able to locate descendants of anyone who might be buried on the property.

Additionally, both women said they and their families are interested in preserving their land, which adjoins the Lockhart State Park, as a natural habitat for wildlife. They expressed concern that Wiegand’s intention to involve the County Commissioners amounted to an attempt at an end-run around their objections and an opportunity for him to sell, subdivide and develop the land.

Throughout the discussion, Wiegand made a thinly-veiled threat to involve the County in potentially costly and time-consuming litigation unless the issues regarding the disposition of CR 220 are settled.

Because of that, Caldwell County District Attorney Trey Hicks said he would refrain from offering the Commissioners an opinion during the public hearing, or during later public discussion of the matter. Instead, Hicks said, he decided to preserve attorney-client privilege, informing the Commissioners he would only discuss the matter during an executive session when he could offer his clients legal advice.

Although the Commissioners did not ask for such an executive session on Monday, they did decide to table the matter until such time as they can consult with Hicks, as well as researching the issue of the cemetery and the city’s annexation of property surrounding CR 220.

In other business:
The Commissioners briefly discussed the financial audit for the year ending Sept. 30, 2008. During the report from an independent auditor, it was revealed that the end-of-year audit revealed several problems, including an overage of funds in the Caldwell County District Clerk’s Office estimated over $735,000, as well as overages in accounts in other departments.

By and large, Caldwell County Judge HT Wright said, the accounting errors in the District Clerk’s office predate seated District Clerk Tina Morgan. According to Wright, many of the funds were either incorrectly entered in handwritten ledgers over the years, or were the product of interest paid that was not documented.

Some of the money, however, is for payments due and owing to crime victims for restitution, while other should be paid to the State Comptroller’s office. Morgan is said to be working diligently to sort out the problems. However, bookkeeping since Morgan took office raised no red flags, the auditors said.

In brief news:
The Court opted to leave an outdoor burning ban and an aerial fireworks ban in place.

They heard a report from Unit Road Director Dwight Jeffrey regarding Eco-Systems Retrofit devices which were installed in a number of county trucks earlier in the year. The Commissioners were told the devices would save the County money by significantly increasing gas mileage in county vehicles. The test of the product, Jeffrey said, proved inconclusive, as the devices did not positively impact his fuel consumption.

The County paid bills in the amount of $110,169.01, which included $1,225 for indigent legal defense costs.

The Caldwell County Commissioners meet on the second, third and fourth Monday of each month at 9 a.m. in Room 100 of the Caldwell County Courthouse. The meetings are open to the public and residents of the county are encouraged to attend.

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