ELIDA — An Allen County judge will hear arguments Thursday to determine if the Village of Elida is acting within the parameters of a 2018 ordinance in its attempt to force the Elida Local School District board of education to annex its under-construction elementary school to the village in exchange for municipal water and sewage service.
A civil lawsuit was filed Dec. 3 in Allen County Common Pleas Court by the board against the Village of Elida, former Mayor Kim Hardy and Village Administrator Dave Metzger. A trial to the court will be held Thursday before Judge Terri Kohlrieser.
Current Mayor Claude Paxton, who defeated Hardy in the November general election, declined comment on the pending litigation other than to say the suit was filed against the office of the mayor and not the individual and that he, therefore, is now a party to the legal action.
The school board in its suit seeks temporary, preliminary and permanent injunctions and other relief from the village’s attempts to force the district into entering into a pre-annexation agreement, which board attorneys says is “based on an unlawful application and interpretation” of an existing village ordinance. The board claims the village has made threats to discontinue water and sewer service to the school district’s property outside the corporation limits, “despite having done so for the previous 50 years.”
The district is constructing a new elementary school at 300 Pioneer Road, located just outside the village corporation limits, on a parcel of land that holds the current elementary school building. District voters in May of 2018 approved a 2.8-mill bond issue and a .50-mill levy for the construction of the new building. The 30-year bonds totaled $17.9 million to build the new school, and Elida will also receive $18.1 million from the state to be used for the project.
An underlying issue in the dispute between the village and the school district is the village’s .75% income tax, which staff at the new elementary school would have to pay if the property was annexed into the village.
Elida Superintendent of Schools Joel Mengerink in November, prior to the filing of the board’s lawsuit, described the annexation requirement as an “overstep” on the part of village officials.
“We don’t believe the ordinance the village is trying to use pertains to our building project,” Mengerink told The Lima News at that time. “We’re trying to look out for the interest of our employees, as we believe this is just a money grab on the part of the village.”
Hardy in November defended the annexation ordinance, which he said would allow Elida schools to pay an inside rate for water and sewer service. And he said the income tax would help support the village in return for the financial support village residents and the surrounding community have already offered to Elida schools.
The dispute is jeopardizing timely construction of the new elementary school, which was originally intended to open by Labor Day 2021 but may be delayed if the school district chooses to use Allen County water and sewer services rather than annex the school into Elida.
The lawsuit also alleges that Metzger, on Nov. 27 of last year, notified the school district’s architect that work was not to proceed on the project “until the village gets an annexation agreement.”