HOLMES COUNTY – The Holmes County Board of County Commissioners held a public meeting Monday with residents and land owners on Tobe Retherford, as well as engineers for the project, to discuss easements for right-of-way access which would allow for road improvements to take place.

Out of 73 land owners, only 16 had signed easements at the time of the meeting . Seven land owners have stated they will not sign, and 40 others remain undecided.

The county is asking for the easements in order to pave the road with a $4.5 million grant from Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT). In order to pave the road according to FDOT specifications, the county will need 60 feet of right-of-way from the back of each ditch on each side of the road. On average, this is about 10 feet of property easement from each landowner.

Landowner Jimmy Cooper told commissioners his reasons for not signing the easement is because he paid for his property and doesn’t want to just give it to the county.

"25 years ago, I paid for this property, and I don’t feel like I should continue to pay taxes on land that I am not able to use because I have given it to the county,” he said.

Kay Peters, whose family has owned land on the road for more than 100 years, spoke about how improving the road would be beneficial for her family.

“My husband and I have to travel to our doctors appointments," she said. "When the road is flooded or washed out, it is nearly impossible to do so. I am ready to sign this easement tonight so that we can make sure we are able to travel to take care of our health."

Some landowners have agreed to meet with the engineering firm and County Coordinator Wesley Adams to see if there is a way to work out something that will be beneficial to all parties, even those reluctant to sign.

With work is slated to begin for the project in September, receiving the easements is crucial. Should they not be signed and agreements unable to be made, the county could lose the funding, and the road remain unpaved.