HAYDEN, Ala. (WIAT) — CBS 42’s Your Voice Your Station is investigating a Blount County road that has fallen into such disrepair that neighbors don’t know what to do.
A lot of times when we do stories about bad roads, they’re owned by a city, the county or the state. That’s not the case along Double Oak Road. The privately-owned road sits inside of Hardy Acres, tucked away off Old Hayden Road.
Jennifer Pike lives at the top of the road and said she has seen cars get stuck constantly along the midpart because of how dilapidated it has become.
“If you’re coming up you have to come up on the left side of the road because the right side is impassable, I mean even in an SUV it’s impassable,” Pike said. “Anything happens people come right to us and we’re like what do you mean? What happened?”
Our team took our time climbing to the top and could not drive more than five miles per hour, still hitting bump after bump.
Patsy Burgett is among many neighbors who contacted the Your Voice Your Station Hotline with concerns about their neighborhood road.
“It’s horrible – you can’t miss one because there’s so many of them – that’s how bad it’s gotten,” Burgett said. “It’s just so many of them and it will absolutely tear your car up.”
In fact, Blount County Schools stopped sending buses up the road this school year because of its condition. Transportation Director Ken Parker sent us this information:
Ken Parker, Transportation Director, Blount County Schools
“I can confirm that we are not running buses through the neighborhood due to the extremely poor road conditions, especially going up the hill from Old Hayden Road. We sent letters home in late May notifying parents that if the roads were not repaired before the start of this school year that we would not be able to provide curb-to-curb services for students that live in the neighborhood. I was by there just a couple of days prior to the start of school and the road conditions had not changed. As a result, we contacted the parents/guardians of the affected students and told them that we would pick up all students who live in the neighborhood at the intersection of Double Oak Road and Old Hayden Road.
We would be happy to resume service through the neighborhood as soon as the road is repaired.”
Neighbors tell us they had been promised a permanent fix for decades, but it never happened. The problem doesn’t just stop at the fact that it’s a privately owned road, but that the property owners are no longer alive.
Neighbor Cecil Waddell has done some of his own digging. He has gone to owner Jack Clay’s real estate office for answers. Clay passed away in 2020, according to his secretary Clifta Burchfield.
“She said it would be September before they could do anything,” Waddell said. “Well, here it is September – we still haven’t heard anything from her or anything.”
Pike shared several documents, handwritten and typed, where Clay promised to fix the road as far back as 2000.
Blount County Commissioner Allen Armstrong said the story of this road is not unique – but more common among neighborhoods built around the time of the 2008 stock market crash. Once developers finish a neighborhood, they are supposed to submit renderings to the engineering office to start the process so the county can adopt the road(s).
“For whatever reason, this one was built a really long time ago and it never got adopted,” Armstrong said. “I’ve led them in some directions – at the end of the day, it’s illegal for us to work on private property. You’d love to go help them, but you’ve only got so many dollars and what’s to stop 10 Joe Dirts from coming in here and cutting clay roads in, building 40 or 50 houses and then expect the county to pay for the roads. We don’t have the money for that.”
Armstrong points to the gas tax from Rebuild Alabama – saying rural counties don’t get nearly as much money to fund road projects. We found that in Fiscal Year 2021, Blount County only got about 16% of the money Jefferson County did.
“We get the crumbs at the end of the day,” Armstrong said.
When we contacted the real estate office, Burchfield pointed us to the attorney for Jack Clay’s estate, Slate McDorman, to speak on her behalf. We have reached out to him several times and gotten no response.
Armstrong said if the neighbors can raise the money to get the materials needed to fix the road, then they can offer manpower.