PRIVATE PROPERTY DESTROYED BY CITY HALL… INCOMPETENCE OR INTENTION?
Around noon on Tuesday, September 13th, I received a call to come to Firetower Road about 1/4 mile south of Moffett Road (Hwy 98). The call was from Ms. Susan Jarvis, the owner of some properties on Firetower Road. Ms. Jarvis said that City Of Semmes employees were cutting down Camellias on property owned by her family.
Upon arriving at Firetower Road I could see several Mobile County Sheriff’s vehicles and several personal vehicles. Ms. Jarvis, Council Member Lawrence Webb, the City Of Semmes Code Enforcement Officer, public works supervisor Jason Franklin and two Sheriff’s Deputies were conversing on the east side of Firetower Road. The work crew left after calling the deputies as instructed and all crews had left before I arrived on the scene.
As told to me by Ms. Jarvis, she had received a phone call earlier that city workers were cutting shrubbery and camellias on her property with heavy machinery so she went to the property and was told by the city code enforcement officer that Mayor Hale had issued a work order directing the public works employees to clear the right-of-way adjoining her property. When Ms. Jarvis requested that the City Workers stop, she encountered resistance from the city workers so she called City Councilman Lawrence Webb for assistance. Upon arrival Mr. Webb questioned public works supervisor Jason Franklin and the code enforcement officer as to why the crew was working on this particular piece of property. The code enforcement officer said Mayor Judy Hale had given the order.
When I questioned about the possible intrusion onto private property, Mr. Franklin stated that the workers were required by law to keep the 80 foot right-of-way clear and they were going by the Mobile County GIS records. Ms. Jarvis and Mr. Webb pointed out that the crew was working well outside the 80 foot right-of-way. The photo below is a view from the right-of-way limit on the east side of Firetower Road looking South. A tape measurement showed that the work crew was 12 or more feet into Ms. Jarvis’ property. Mr. Franklin took full responsibility for the incident and the mayor denied any knowledge of the work order even though Ms. Jarvis had been told earlier by the code enforcement officer that the mayor had issued the work order. Even after all city representatives had acknowledged that a mistake had occurred resulting in seventy-five year old ornamental camellias being destroyed, there were no apologies made to Ms. Jarvis regarding such an egregious error.
Recognizing that the intrusion might have been a legitimate mistake, I was reluctant to publish yet another negative article about the city and Mayor Judy Hale but Ms. Jarvis said she felt that this incident was wrongful and was designed to purposely target her because she had supported Mr. David Baker for Mayor during the election. Ms. Jarvis pointed out that the adjacent property North of her property was untouched and questioned why the city crew had picked her property and had not started at one end or the other of Firetower Road if the intent was to clean the right-of-way along Firetower Road. Further, she stated, “It’s pretty obvious to me that this particular piece of property was the intended target.”
Mayor Hale arrived and the following recorded conversation took place:
I purposely let this story set for a while hoping that the incident was indeed just an error on the part of city workers. That was until…
At roughly 7:00 a.m. this morning, Wednesday, September 14th, I received another call from Ms. Jarvis saying that the city workers were again on her property. When the City workers were questioned by Ms. Jarvis about why they had returned knowing that such an upsetting incident had taken place the previous day, the workers acknowledged that Mayor Judy Hale had instructed them the previous day to return to the site to finish the job.
By the time I arrived there was no one at the property but I began to think a second occurance of this being an error was looking less likely.
I placed a call to the Mobile County Engineering office and wound up talking with the Mobile County Surveyor and ultimately the Mobile County GIS department. According to the GIS department, Ms. Jarvis’ property is not in the City Of Semmes and the supposed right-of-way which the city crew was clearing was not the responsiblity of the City Of Semmes – it is county maintained. According to the GIS department, the county right of way is well marked with signs – one 1,020 feet from the beginning of Firetower Road at Moffett Road, and another 1, 425 feet from the same beginning. Ms. Jarvis’ property is situated within the bounds of the signs and therefore the right-of-way is to be maintained by Mobile County. Ms. Jarvis has also informed me this evening that the actual parcels of property owned by her family were never annexed by the City of Semmes, therefore the City of Semmes should have never trespassed on their property in the first place….
This evening Ms. Jarvis is still awaiting an apology from Mayor Hale, acknowledging the City’s error.
Editor: This story does not end here. City Council members have informed me that they intend to take immediate action to address this issue. Additional information will be published when available.