OTTAWA — A new complaint filed in Putnam County Common Pleas Court by 17 residents of Road 5 against the Putnam County commissioners alleges numerous claims, including trespassing and violation of Ohio sunshine laws, which deal with public records and open meetings.
In 2012, the Putnam County commissioners began a project to widen Road 5 because of many accidents and dangerous road conditions, Commissioner Vincent Schroeder said.
“The road was the busiest and most dangerous in the county,” he said.
He added there were many accidents on the road because the lanes were small and the ditches were sheer drops. The county received a $5 million grant to extend the road 10 feet on either side. The commissioners used eminent domain to take possession of that 10 feet of property owned by residents along Road 5.
According to the complaint, the Putnam County commissioners had no right to take possession of the land using eminent domain because they did not have a unanimous vote. The 3rd Ohio District Court of Appeals said as much in a ruling in 2014 according to the complaint. On May 26, 2015, all of the eminent domain cases were dismissed so the property must be restored or trespass damage must be paid.
Schroeder said the Putnam County commissioners offered a total sum of $64,000 to the residents along Road 5 in 2012 when the road extension project was getting underway.
The landowners counter-offered with an amount in the millions, Schroeder said.
“The Clerk of Courts has had the money in escrow ever since the road was widened,” Commissioner John Love said.
The complaint also alleges Schroeder and Love conspired to take the Road 5 land without compensation by circulating a freeholders petition, a petition signed by residents of Road 5 who accepted the eminent domain offer, which Schroeder peeked at before the contents were made public.
Schroeder said this was a misunderstanding and he had only seen the petition at the meeting in which it was made public.
“I had never seen it until the meeting and I saw a mistake on it,” he said. “They took it as I read the petition before the meeting.”
People are still upset about the Road 5 project because they wanted tractor-trailer traffic on the road restricted, Schroeder said.
“Access to a public road can’t be restricted,” he said. “We couldn’t close the road to truck drivers because it’s their road too.”
Schroeder said he wants the Putnam County commissioners and Road 5 residents whose names are on the new complaint to reach an amicable arrangement because it’s just been going on for too long.
“It’s kind of disgusting,” he said.
Linde Hurst Webb and Daniel Ellis of the Toledo law firm Lydy & Moan, the representatives for the Road 5 residents filing the complaint, were not available for comment Monday.
Reach Bryan Reynolds 567-242-0362