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Waterlogged driveway hinders life at group home

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By Jenny Hartley

KERSHAW - The driveway to a home in Kershaw's Charlesboro community looks more like a muddy pond.

Deep holes in the driveway on Taxahaw Road are filled with water, with some holes at least 7 inches deep. Wooden posts run alongside the driveway, which in some areas is not much wider than 10 feet.

The house at the end of the driveway is home to five men, clients of Chester/Lancaster County Disabilities and Special Needs (DSN) Board. The home allows them to have some independence, and the men are like a family.

Resident Harold Evans likes living in the quiet country. But he's worried that if an ambulance or firetruck is needed at the house, it won't make it up the driveway.

Family members of the residents say they can't visit, because they can't get up the driveway without damaging their cars. Some DSN staff members don't want to work at the home because of the driveway, and that hurts, Evans said.

"It really tears up the vehicles," he said. "It's really not safe. I love the house and everyone there. It's just the safety issue."

"We really need a good, working driveway," said Evans' housemate, James Prendergast. "We're all scared that we might get stuck. When it snows, we're extra worried."

The residents aren't the only ones with concerns.

Lancaster County Emergency Medical Services Director Lanny Bernard said the few times ambulances have gone to the home, the driveway was difficult to maneuver.

"It definitely affects our ability to get in and out and take care of patients," Bernard said. "It's a shame it affects our ability to respond."

Disabilities and Special Needs officials say they have legal access to the road, and would like to fix it with the agency's funding, but the owner of the property, next-door neighbor Walter Johnson, won't allow it.

DSN director Jay Altman said Johnson has a long-standing dispute with the agency because Johnson's wife used to work there.

"It's not affecting the agency," Altman said. "It's affecting the lives of those five men and the staff."

DSN owns the home where the men live. Altman said the agency bought the acre on which the house stands, but didn't spend more money to buy more property around it and build another driveway. The agency receives state and federal funding, local government and private grants, United Way funds and private donations.

"We don't want to spend program money on legal defense," Altman said.

But the agency may have to.

Johnson says the agency is unfairly trying to take his land. He offered to lease the driveway to the agency.

"They said they wouldn't give me a dime," Johnson said. "They're trying to get something for nothing. I told them to take me to court. I've been fair, but when you start trying to take my land, I get stubborn."

Contact Jenny Hartley at 283-1151 or jhartley@thelancasternews.com