HOLMES COUNTY - A Bonifay resident says the Holmes County Board of County Commissioners violated its own procedures by agreeing to change the name of Bylsma Road to Tom Messer Road in February and is now taking that assertion to court.
Attorney Kerry Atkinson filed suit on behalf of George Bylsma in regard to the alleged improper road name change after a petition for the change was made by Bonifay resident Tamphus Messer and approved by commissioners.
The county's policy requires a road name change petition to have signatures of at least 80 percent of those who own land abutting the road and for the county to hold a public hearing. According to Bylsma, neither of those requirements were met.
"The commissioners accepted reviewed, and approved the petition in one meeting," said Bylsma. "The petition to change the name wasn't even complete. Not only was it not notarized, the signatures on the petition were renters, not landowners, and landowners were not properly notified of the change."
Bylsma also presented signed, notarized statements from several landowners avowing they had not received any notification of the pending name change, several of which expressed opposition to changing the name from Bylsma Road to Tom Messer Road.
Bylsma asserts that opposition expressed by landowners is also proof that Messer submitted a "false statement."
"It says right on the application that anyone knowingly making a false statement with the intent to mislead a public servant in the performance of his official duty is guilty of a second-degree misdemeanor," he said. "Messer signed that petition to signify that he had notified all affected property owners and attached addresses as listed in the Holmes County tax records - but the landowners themselves say they received no notification, and no addresses were submitted with the petition. That is clear cut a false official statement."
Bylsma is requesting in the suit that the name to be returned to Bylsma Road, which it had been titled for 25 years prior to Messer's request, initially made in 2014. The suit also includes attempting to permanently restrict the county from ever changing the name of the road again.
Several attempts to contact Messer for comment at the phone number listed in the petition were unsuccessful.
Holmes County Board of Commissioners Attorney Jeff Goodman is expected to respond to the suit on behalf of the county in coming weeks.