Putnam County’s Road 5 case goes to mediation


OTTAWA — The Road 5 lawsuit in Putnam County continues after a judge approved mediation requested by impacted property owners.

In 2012, the Putnam County Commissioners began a project to widen Road 5 by 10 feet on either side after dangerous road conditions caused numerous accidents. The commissioners used eminent domain to take possession of property belonging to residents along Road 5, offering them a collective total of $64,000, which the property owners never accepted.

According to a court complaint filed in June 2017 by the property owners, whose property was confiscated after the rejected eminent domain offer, the commissioners didn’t have the right to take possession of their land using eminent domain because they didn’t have a unanimous vote to do so at the time the project began.

After six years of legal struggle over the matter, visiting Judge Dale A. Crawford has approved a request for mediation filed by Linde Webb, a Toledo-based attorney representing a group of 13 property owners. The mediation is scheduled for 9:30 a.m. July 10 and 11 at the Putnam County Courthouse Assembly Room and is ordered to be completed no later than July 30.

Retired Judge Peter Handwork will act as mediator and will be compensated $200 per hour plus expenses, the cost to be covered by the Putnam County Commissioners. More accurately, the cost will probably be covered by Putnam County taxpayers, said Commissioner Vincent Schroeder.

“I think it will,” he said.

Webb said the mediation will focus on the collective’s settlement requests for compensation for the property taken by the commissioners through eminent domain and residual damage caused over time from trees being cut down and other damage done during the construction of the Road 5 project. The residents are also asking for trespass damages for the use of property they never agreed to sell the commissioners, though that is being heard by federal court, Webb said.

Schroeder said the commissioners are not setting aside any funding in case they should eventually lose this case and need to pay a settlement. The original $64,000 offered to the Road 5 property owners has been in escrow since it was rejected in 2012 and to pay the defendants, he said.

This judge-ordered mediation between the collective of 13 Road 5 residents and the Putnam County Commissioners doesn’t mean a settlement in the case is possible in the near future, according to Webb.

“We have been unsuccessful in any mediation so far,” she said. “It’s just another step, but it could settle the case.”

A meeting is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. Thursday between the Putnam County Commissioners and Prosecutor Gary Lammers at the commissioners office to discuss this mediation.

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