The cause of some Pine Ridge residents on Tuesday resurfaced before the Citrus County Commission.
This is the second meeting in which that area’s representative on the Board of County Commissioners (BOCC), Jimmie T. Smith, brought those residents’ cause before the BOCC.
At issue is a stretch of land in the area of West Calico and West Conestoga which residents say has been taken over by a group of aggressive group of troublemakers coming through the area to and from a 42-acre parcel adjoining Calico and Conestoga. Residents have alleged the trespassers have made threats and intimidation on people who live in the area. One woman even said she has been run off the road and had a bullet fired at her.
Smith said an attempt was clearly made on him to force him to move when one trespasser used his truck to force his way through a group of people Smith had been talking too about the issue at the time the trespasser’s truck advanced toward him.
In Tuesday’s commission meeting, the same complaints was surfaced, and Smith said he has been working since the last meeting to help cut down on the number of incursions by installing an A-Frame gate, welded into concrete as a first step in addressing the problem.
It is not an easy thing to do what residents want. At issue is whether the area where the gate would be constructed is on private property, county right-of-way, posting “no trespassing” signs all around the perimeter of the 42 acres, cooperation among land owners and residents and the enforcement of the “no trespassing” law by the Sheriff’s Office.
Citrus County Commissioner Brian Coleman said that he has already been talking with members of the Sheriff’s Office, and that deputies would need to be present when offenders intruded on the large property, which is owned by John Goodman and his mother, Betty Goodman, and has been part of that family’s holdings before there was any Pine Ridge. It’s original size was about 1,000 acres, Betty Goodman said.
During commission discussion Commissioner Scott Carnahan said, “We understand there is an issue. Small-minded people do small-minded things.” He assured the residents present at the meeting that the commission will continue to look for a fix for the issue. He added, “To me, it goes back to the Sheriff’s Office. They’ve got to do their job.,”
Commissioner Coleman agreed that the Sheriff’s Office can help, but he also had a precaution for Pine Ridge residents to consider. “The way I loo at it,” Coleman said, “If we put up a fence, we would be asked to put up another fence within 15 minutes. I want to fix this long-term for you folks.” Coleman also said he believed things would get better once someone is arrested. That would happen after trespassers would be warned first, and then arrested. “The word will get around,” he said.
A suggestion by Commissioner Jeff Kinnard seemed acceptable to the commissioners. He said that the large-property owner, property owners and property owners association should work together, and agreed with County Administrator Randy Oliver’s suggestion that the county could do the survey work to determine where any public or private property lines were and mark the areas with stakes to show where things should be.
County Attorney Denis A. Dymond-Lyn said that the public should also be reminded that the county’s rights-of-way are not owned by the county, but rather are held in the name of all county residents.