Members of the Washington Area Highway Transportation Committee are supporting a proposal that St. Charles County annex a portion of southern Warren County that includes the controversial Augusta Bottom Road.
“We ought to encourage St. Charles County to annex the road,” Bill Miller Sr., member, remarked at Monday’s meeting. He later made the motion — which the committee passed — to endorse the annexation idea.
Warren and St. Charles County officials plan to meet next Monday, Oct. 7, at Foristell to discuss different options and a solution to improving and maintaining Augusta Bottom Road as a link between the two counties.
Most of the road is in Warren County, but a short section is in southwest St. Charles County. The St. Charles County stretch has been improved and is paved with asphalt while the road is gravel on the Warren County side.
The town of Augusta recently closed a short section known as the Augusta Parkway — said to be the town’s responsibility because it obtained a grant to rebuild that section after it was washed out by the 1993 flood.
Augusta officials said after a settlement was reached in a wrongful death lawsuit, they had no choice but to close that section after they were notified by a new insurance carrier that it would not provide coverage if the parkway remained open.
That closure sparked a dispute between officials in the two counties over which one should be responsible for making the road safer for motorists.
St. Charles County Councilman Joe Brazil and County Executive Steve Ehlmann proposed a deal that requires Warren County to make a reasonable effort to keep Augusta Parkway open and available for safe travel by the public.
In return, St. Charles County will continue to maintain three St. Charles County roads used mainly by Warren County residents. The roads include Borgmann Road, which leads to Lake Sherwood Estates, Joerling Lane and Schultz Road.
Brazil said that if Warren County refuses the agreement, St. Charles County may refuse to maintain the three roads.
After that proposal was made, Warren County commissioners countered with the suggestion that St. Charles County take over the road in a land transfer.
Those are the key points that will be discussed at the Oct. 7 meeting.
During Monday’s meeting, it was suggested that someone from the committee should attend the meeting and Bill Straatmann, chairman, said he would attend.
Warren County officials also floated the idea that the city of Washington consider annexing the bottom road.
“I’m absolutely opposed to the city considering annexation of the road,” remarked Bernie Hillermann, committee member and a former mayor. “We’ve got all the responsibility we can handle now. We don’t need to take on more.
“I don’t have a problem with what we’ve done in the past,” Hillermann said.
The city is a defendant in the lawsuit filed by the family of Ella Neier, the Washington teen who died three years ago when her car went out of control on the parkway and crashed into an adjacent pond.
The city was named in the suit because it provided some grading work — at Augusta’s request — along the parkway section in the past.
Mark Wessels, committee member, called it “wrong” that the city would be sued because it was assisting another town.
“We like to be a good neighbor, but if that’s the kind of liability you create . . . you have to wonder,” Wessels said.
Miller said it appears that St. Charles County officials are trying to establish a relationship with Warren County to find a solution. “I think that’s a good thing,” Miller said. “I think it would be great if they (St. Charles County) would annex the road.”
Tim Brinker, second district Franklin County commissioner who serves on the committee, said if the road would be taken into St. Charles County “it (road improvements) would get done fast.”
The exact process of revising boundaries between counties is not clear. Warren County officials have said it would require voter approval then action by the Missouri Legislature.
Almost since it was formed, the Washington transportation committee has looked for ways to help upgrade the bottom road, which provides a vital link between Washington and St. Charles County.
More than a year ago, the city provided a $2,000 match for a state grant to fund a safety study of the bottom road and has lent support to efforts to secure grants to finance improvements.