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Land condemned for highway

By By ADAM PRESTRIDGE – for The Standard
If no appeal is made, County Road 31 connecting the four lanes of U.S. Highway 31 near Skippy White Bridge north between Flomaton and Brewton will finally be a reality.
Tuesday, Escambia County Judge of Probate Rachel Agerton ruled in favor of the county to condemn three parcels of land that the State of Alabama attempted to condemn in 1997.
A second condemnation hearing was not granted. Judge Agerton issued her ruling following a hearing held in Brewton last Thursday, Feb. 23. In the ruling, Judge Agerton granted the county's request to condemn the sought-after property owned by Shelton Howington; James E. Hart III and John Webb Hart; Jimmie L. and Jo Ann Bush and Patricia McDonald. The condemnation will pave the way for the county to four-lane the portion of Hwy. 31 that is currently two lanes. When completed, the approximately 1.5-mile portion of the road would be called County Road 31 and maintained by the state.
According Escambia County administrator Tony Sanks, the county began pursuing acquisition of the property in 2002. &#8220The state sought condemnation of the property and that didn?t work,” Sanks said. &#8220To my understanding they didn?t have any alternatives; they had gone as far as they could.”
White, who is the 1st Congressional District member of the state's Joint Transportation Committee, said when a case reaches the Supreme Court and the party loses, they have no other alternative.
Even though the ruling went in the county?s favor, the landowners? attorney, Ed Hines of Brewton, has the option to appeal Judge Agerton?s ruling. If no appeal is made or if time runs out, the county could proceed with creating the four-lane highway from Flomaton to Brewton.
White believes that if the project is given the go ahead following the appeal process that the county will contact the state for assistance.
According to published reports, the county has no intentions of turning the roadway over the state following its completion.