Who owns Morrissey Road?

By: 
Alexis Barker

Alexis Barker

NLJ News Editor

 

Ownership of a portion of Morrissey Road running through Cactus Court, a city housing development near the west end of town, has become a topic of discussion between the Newcastle City Council and the Weston County Commission after the city called ONEOK Inc. out for being unresponsive to attempts from the city to discuss repairing damage to the road, according to County Attorney Alex Berger. 

On June 18, Berger informed the commission that a discussion over the ownership of Morrissey Road was needed and that it is an “issue that is constantly on his desk.” 

He said that he does not believe the road can be discussed in executive session because he is unaware of potential litigation and it is a dispute between the county and the city. 

The topic of ownership arose, according to Berger, after damage was done by ONEOK to a section of the road and attempts to negotiate road repairs with ONEOK from the city went unanswered. Because of the lack of response from ONEOK, the city closed the road to commercial traffic, believing it owned that piece of the road. 

The section in question is 2,300 feet of paved road running through land that was annexed to the city, according to Chairman Tony Barton. Commissioner Marty Ertman said that the road was established in 1968. 

“The city is not sure who owns the section of Morrissey Road, that they previously thought they did,” Berger said. 

According to Berger, his office has been asked by City Attorney Jim Peck to determine who owns the piece of road in contention. City ownership of the piece of road, if it exists, was not properly recorded, he said.

According to the public record, Berger said, the road section probably belongs to the  county. But, he said, minutes from the county meetings say that the section of road was granted to the city. 

Until the ownership issue is resolved, Berger said, the county can use the road, but if the city were to decide that it owns that section of the road, it can reclose it to commercial traffic. 

“If the county does accept that they own it, the county is responsible for repair costs and I don’t know if the county could get anything more out of ONEOK,’ Berger said. “We have already negotiated a deal with them, and it is not their fault that we didn’t know we own what we own.” 

Ertman said that there are no easements and no records of the road being quitclaimed from the county to the city. She said that she would like to see the county retain ownership. 

“Did they annex the road? Does that shift maintenance responsibility to the city by law?” Commissioner Tracy Hunt asked. 

“Potentially, I would have to look into the issue,” Berger answered. 

Barton said that it appeared to him that the city annexed that portion of the road but that ownership never formally transferred from the county to the city, based on documents he has reviewed. 

Commissioner Ed Wagoner said that he would like to see ownership stay with the county to prevent the city from restricting commercial truck traffic on the road. 

“You don’t have to make a decision today. I just wanted to put it out there that I do need some direction as a position for the county,” Berger said. “The city has invested money in that portion of road since everyone acted like it is the city’s. I don’t know if they would have claim for reimbursement for that if it turns out to be a county road.” 

He said that he would like to further study the issue to develop a more “concrete proposal.”

Barton encouraged Berger to continue to work with the city. 

“At the end of the day, it is for the betterment of the county and town residents,” Barton said. “We are really on the same team, and it comes down to who is going to maintain it.” 

Hunt urged his fellow commissioners to consider telling ONEOK that even if the county owns the road, the city has been charged with maintaining the road and that money should be given to them for repairs. 

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