OTTAWA — After a meeting to discuss whether to appeal a ruling the county must pay more than $600,000 in attorney fees associated with the violation of Ohio’s public record and open meeting laws associated with the Road 5 project, one commissioner was upset Putnam County was in the position it is in.
“This is what happens when the government gets heavy handed and this is what results. It is going to hurt the taxpayers of the county to have to pay for this,” said Putnam County Commission Travis Jerwers.
Jerwers spoke about the Road 5 widening project and the lawsuit that surround it. He said he voted against it as the only dissenting vote.
The three commissioners will hold a public meeting at 11 a.m. Tuesday in the commissioner’s office to discuss and decide whether to appeal a judge’s ruling which awarded attorney fees to the lawyers over violations of public record or open meeting laws.
Commissioner John Love attended other county matters and was not at Thursday’s meeting. He said he would talk to the other two commissioners before the meeting.
Commissioner Vince Schroeder did not want to make a statement on what was said during a meeting with an attorney Thursday. He said the board’s decision would be made Tuesday.
The legal battle over the Road 5 project has been ongoing for four years. The 3rd District Court of Appeals ruled commissioners violated Ohio’s Sunshine Laws relating to open records and open meetings after filing a petition to appropriate 10 feet of land along both sides of an 11.2 mile stretch of Road 5 between Pandora and Leipsic in 2009. Commissioners used eminent domain to expand the road from 20 to 24 feet but property owners were not given notice of the appropriation nor were they given a chance to challenge it.
What also hasn’t been fully decided is compensation for the land taken from some property owners. About a half dozen property owners sued the county rather than accept payment. No settlement talks have occurred with those suing the county, Schroeder said.
Schroeder estimated 85 percent of the landowners did accept a payout instead of joining the lawsuit. Commissioners have placed money in escrow to use to compensate the remaining property owners once a settlement or ruling is reached, Schroeder said.
Reach Greg Sowinski at 567-242-0464 or on Twitter @Lima_Sowinski.