AG expected to issue Hope Village opinion

By By Chris Allen Baker / staff writer
March 21, 2002
State Atty. Gen. Mike Moore is expected to issue an opinion in the next few weeks on whether the Lauderdale County Board of Supervisors can legally help build a new road to the Hope Village for Children campus.
The issue of building a road on private property, even for a non-profit organization such as Hope Village, arose earlier this week as supervisors learned an access road to the campus from 23rd Avenue would be closed.
Supervisors said they want to help, but the legal opinion was needed to protect the county from liability by working on private property.
In a letter, Hope Village's founder Sela Ward sought assistance from supervisors.
The Masonic Lodge, which retained ownership to about 2.55 acres of the property when the rest was sold to Hope Village, is closing the main driveway off 23rd Avenue and erecting a fence, both for liability reasons.
At the current time, the only access to the campus is a steep and narrow road from 23rd Ave. next to Magnolia Cemetery on the north side of the property.
Carrie Ponder, executive director of Hope Village, told supervisors the current road will not accommodate emergency vehicles and the traffic creates a safety issue for children.
Fred Bean, grand secretary of the Grand Lodge of Meridian Free and Accepted Masons, said Wednesday that Hope Village agreed when the property was purchased more than a year ago to build a driveway access to the campus.
The first young residents began to arrive at Hope Village in January and Bean said the Masons voted in February to install a fence as a protective measure.