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Vicksburg citizen stands up to utility company

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Stan Collins utility right of way
Stan Collins speaks with Brian Carver. Photo by David Day
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Two Vicksburg homeowners were shocked when they arrived home to see a giant hole in their front yard with no posted notice about work being done.

Lori and Stan Collins pulled onto East Avenue after spending a week in Orange Beach celebrating their one-year anniversary. As they drove up to the front of their home they saw a professionally dug hole, about 3 feet by 5 feet, in their front yard.

“It looked like they opened a grave,” quipped Stan. “I didn’t tell anyone they could dig a hole in my front yard.”

So, Collins drove one of his dump trucks to the location of the hole and pulled his deceased son’s truck, Big Country, to the other side of the hole.

don't mess with stan dump truck utility

Stan Collins parked two big trucks over the hole in his yard. Photo by David Day

“They’re going to have to talk to me before they do any more work there,” said Collins.

C Spire is laying a fiber optic line in this part of the city. They were granted the right to do so with a September 2019 ordinance by the city to run fiber optic cable through the city.

The city and the contractor have the authority to lay the fiber. The city of Vicksburg has a 50-foot easement for utilities such as fiber optic cable providers on East Avenue. It allows them the room to install water, sewer, power et al. Basically, the contractor hired by C Spire, in this case, D&B Construction, LLC, is charged with doing some of the work to install the fiber optic cable.

map easement right of way utility Stan collins

A photo showing the easement on East Avenue. Photo by David Day

Show me the money

“I didn’t know anything about it until I saw a hole in my front yard,” explained Collins. “If a private company like C Spire is going to use my land to make money, I want my royalty. And look, I don’t have a problem with them laying cable, that’s good for all of us. But they should tell me if it’s coming through my front yard.”

sign right of way utility Stan Collins

The sign notifying the community is on McArthur, in the middle of this picture. Photo by David Day

One of the people working at the site, Brian Carver, said he has put up a sign to alert the locals the work was being done. The sign was placed on McArthur near Mission 66. According to MDOT, 1600 cars a day travel down East Avenue in that area. There is no count listed for McArthur but significantly fewer cars travel McArthur. The three residents on East Avenue that spoke to the Vicksburg Daily News said they also didn’t know anything about the fiber being installed until they saw the workers.

What about…

According to Warren County Tax Assessor Ben Luckett, you are taxed based on whatever land is on your deed. In a perfect world, your land abuts your neighbors and any public areas perfectly with no overlap. Collins has cut the grass that is owned by the city via right of way, in that front yard most of his life.

“I’ve maintained that property forever, the city don’t cut that grass, I do,” said Collins.

utility right of way Stan Collins

The silver dot is where Stan Collins measured the line should be. Collins is at the top center of the photo. Photo by David Day

But the law says it doesn’t matter. The only real question is how accurately the right of way lines are drawn and if you’ve been paying taxes on the right of way.

Collins took a tape measure to see how accurately placed the painted lines were on his grass. Before a project of this magnitude, a crew will come through and identify the right-of-way lines, gas lines, water lines, and any lines that may be in the way before they dig those holes to place the utility box. Collins measured the length of the street from curb top to curb top and found the middle of the street. From the middle of the street he measured 25 feet and his marker was 3 feet before the marker was done by whoever placed those marks.

Plan B

In the end, the crews filled in the holes and decided to move the lines across the street. Collins’s front yard looks pretty rough but the crews are bound by law to make it look just like it did before they dug up his yard.

Stan Collins right of way utility

Stan Collins’s front yard after the crew finished on Wednesday. Photo by David Day.

“I don’t mean them no harm at all, but you can’t dig up my yard without me knowing about it.”

Locally elected officials

Mayor Flagg’s office was very responsive to the Vicksburg Daily News on this story. They provided the ordinance and painstakingly explained how right-of-way laws work and that they have been a part of this country since the beginning. Alderman Monsour took both phone calls and asked us to keep him updated on the situation. Shawn Jackson returned Stan Collins’s phone call and listened patiently to what had occurred. She pledged to drop by after her meetings ended today. Alderman Mike Mayfield called later in the day to check on the situation and resolution.

One more thing

The crew working the site was frustrated they could not continue the work as they wanted. Most of them behaved in a professional manner and while disappointed in their situation, they moved forward.

 

 

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