GREENFIELD — Frustrated drivers wondering why potholes still mark the street between the Steak ’n Shake and Advance Auto Parts parking lots off State Road 9 can’t blame the city’s street department.
It’s one of about a dozen roads in the city that the city doesn’t maintain because they are privately owned. Still, nearly once a week, an upset resident calls city officials wondering when it’s going to finally be fixed, a question officials just can’t answer.
Several roads throughout the city are owned by private developers and businesses, who are responsible for maintaining them.
Sometimes, those roads don’t receive the repairs they need, leaving them dotted with potholes and cracks that can damage vehicles driving on them, officials said.
Mayor Chuck Fewell said he most often hears about the street that sits between State Road 9 and Barrett Drive, adjacent to the Steak ’n Shake and Advance Auto Parts parking lots. Residents are fed up with the road, which connects State Road 9 to nearby businesses, including two banks, Home Depot and Gander Mountain.
Despite the street being frequently traveled, the city has no authority to fill the potholes, Fewell said, leaving his hands tied when residents ask what he’s going to do about it.
“People call us all the time and want us to fix it,” Fewell said. “In reality, it belongs to a private enterprise. … We can’t spend taxpayer money fixing private roads.”
Officials said they’ve tried to contact the businesses — which couldn’t be reached for comment — about the road’s condition, but because they’re corporations with locations across the country, holding someone accountable for the repairs can be difficult. Meanwhile, residents are left dodging the large potholes and footing the bill if damage is caused, Fewell said.
It’s a problem frustrating to residents and officials alike.
“When people drive the streets, they don’t really care who’s responsible. They just care that it’s in good condition,” city utilities director Mike Fruth said. “It’s not that we don’t think there’s a problem there. … It’s private property.”
A similar problem occurred a few years ago when a street running through the Marsh shopping plaza was in disrepair. The city received lots of calls but had to wait until the developer took charge of the problem.
Other privately owned roads in the city include some in subdivisions and apartment complexes.
Fruth said it’s important that residents remember those roads aren’t public property, so they shouldn’t be footing the bill for the roads through the taxes they pay to support other road work.
County highway engineer Gary Pool said there are a number of private roads outside city limits as well. Several neighborhoods are filled with private roads, because, many times, the area’s developer didn’t want to meet standards the county set for streets, he said. When that happens, the developer remains responsible for upkeep.
Some of those roads likely need repairs, Pool said, but he doesn’t often hear about them.
The city owns most of the roads in the city, and problems with private roads usually arise when they’re in a commercial area where many people travel, like the road near Steak ’n Shake. Until the street is fixed, officials recommend drivers use caution in the area.
“We have about 105 miles of streets to maintain; that’s not one of them,” Fruth said.