OTTAWA — There will be no cuts to services, programs or departmental budgets in Putnam County, but work on some ongoing projects will be delayed to pay legal fees for violations of the state’s public records and opening meetings laws over the Road 5 project, a commissioner said.
“As far as operations I don’t see anything being cut,” Commissioner John Love said. “Anything outside the budget at this point, that was not appropriated in January, I don’t see any way to it.”
As an example, Love said the former Weather Seal facility the county purchased to become part of the fairgrounds needs work to the roof and electrical upgrades. That will not be done this year, he said.
On Tuesday, commissioners approved the payment of $611,375 in legal fees to attorneys fighting them over public records. Commissioners also will have to pay court cost and fines.
Commissioners also will start working on settling with the remaining landowners over the Road 5 project whose property was taken for the widening of the road.
“I have yet to be advised on how we’re going to do that,” Love said.
While negotiations may be a starting point, Love said the matter could end up in court to be resolved by a judge. Ohio law allows a landowner who does not agree with an appraisal to seek his or her own appraisal, have a judge review that and the appraisal for the county, and then decide.
The entire legal fight has cost the county $1.1 million so far with $483,906 spent on attorneys defending the county.
The legal wrangling centers on the widening of an 11.2 mile stretch of Road 5 between Pandora and Leipsic in 2009. In 2014, the appellate court found commissioners violated Ohio’s Sunshine Laws relating to open records after filing a petition to appropriate 10 feet of land along both sides of the road.
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 object.
Reach Greg Sowinski at 567-242-0464 or on Twitter @Lima_Sowinski.