RUTLAND — Documents obtained through a public record request and a statement from the Village of Rutland provided additional details into the proposed sale of the former Meigs Local bus garage property.
Among the documents obtained are council meeting minutes related to the proposed sale to Dollar General, as well as the transfer of property with regard to the sewer department.
Minutes from several meetings in 2016 make reference to the Dollar General project, as well as a visit to council by Commissioner Randy Smith.
A document titled Dollar General meeting on April 1, 2016, states that Dollar General had contacted Mayor (April) Burke and Chief (Shannon) Sheridan about purchasing land in the village to build.
According to the document, Burke offered Dollar General land on Main Street for free if they paid the back taxes. Dollar General responded that they did not want that property, but were interested in the two lots by the Civic Center — where the old bus garage and the log cabin sit.
“They recounted with a price of $60,000.00 for both spots. This amount is substantially more than what the property would appraise for,” the document states. “Mayor Burke took this information to the Village Council in May at the regular Council Meeting and explained to them what Dollar General was offering and for what lots they wanted. Council members Marie Birchfield, Gene Dent, Ruth Dent, Kip Grueser, Lowell Vance and Tyler Eblin after careful consideration accepted the offer for the sale of property at Dollar General,” states the document which recounts events of a May meeting although dated April 1.
Minutes of the May 18 village council meeting state that Dollar General had made an offer to the village to buy the lots, with council voting to accept the offer.
At the June meeting council received a detailed update regarding the proposed Dollar General and what would take place at the site.
According to the minutes, Burke and Sheridan met with Dollar General and told them council had accepted their offer.
“Once the process starts they will be building a high end establishment with a reservoir in the front of the building in case of flooding. A new road will be put between the Civic Center and Dollar General and will be maintained by Dollar General. There will be parking spaces in front of the building and at rear of building for parking,” states the minutes. “A privacy fence will be put up between the neighbors on the opposite side of the Civic Center so that it will not interfere with them.”
The minutes note that careful consideration was taken by council regarding the offer from Dollar General due to needed repairs to both the log cabin and the bus garage.
Family Dollar had also contacted Burke wanting to build in the village, according to the June minutes.
In accepting the offer, there is never a mention of the village advertising the property for bids which is required by law for a public entity to sell real estate.
In the Friday edition of The Daily Sentinel it was first noted that the village may not have followed the proper procedure in the proposed sale.
Ohio Revised Code 721.03 states,
No contract…for the sale or lease of real estate belonging to a municipal corporation shall be made unless authorized by an ordinance, approved by a two-thirds vote of the members of the legislative authority of such municipal corporation, and by the board or officer having supervision or management of such real estate.
When the contract is so authorized, it shall be made in writing by such board or officer, and…only with the highest bidder, after advertisement once a week for five consecutive weeks in a newspaper of general circulation within the municipal corporation or as provided in section 7.16 of the Revised Code. Such board or officer may reject any bids and readvertise until all such real estate is sold or leased.
The Daily Sentinel, which is the newspaper of general circulation in the village, shows no record of a legal advertisement concerning taking bids for the sale of the property in question or any other property within the village at any time in the past two years.
At the August 10 meeting, Smith spoke with council regarding the bus garage property and the Dollar General sale.
“Randy Smith also brought up that they were the owners of the Old Bus Garage lot that we had been offered by Dollar General to buy to put an establishment on to bring the town revenue and tax’s and bring in jobs to Rutland. Randy said he thought when they took over the Sewer/Water problem that it went with that,” state the meeting minutes.
Council discussed having an attorney look into it, with Kip Grueser suggesting a firm out of Wellston. Council approved contacting the firm, which was not named in the minutes.
The minutes of the Meigs County Commissioner meeting the following day also acknowledge Smith’s visit to Rutland Council.
“Mr. Smith attended the Rutland Council Meeting to inform them that the property they were selling did not belong to Rutland. The Council agreed, once evidence was presented by Mr. Smith, and stated they would contact the buyer,” the minutes state.
The minutes of the March 18, 2013, Rutland Council meeting discuss an appearance by Commissioner Tim Ihle, who was present at the meeting to discuss the take over of the village water and sewer systems by the county.
“Also as part of this agreement it is agreed that all Public Works assets belong to the county and this includes the backhoe and 1989 GMC truck. The property on which the Sewer Plant is situated will be surveyed by the county and only the property associated with the plant will be transferred to the county. All remaining property would stay with the village,” states the meeting minutes.
On Monday, the Sentinel asked Ihle about the meeting and regarding the information in the minutes.
Ihle stated that the property referenced was a large piece of property owned by the village at the time which included the sewer plant, ball fields, fireman’s park where the annual ox roast is held and other property. As the county did not want to take ownership of the ball fields or the park, the county paid to have the property surveyed so that only the portion where the sewer plant was located would be transferred, not impacting the ball fields or park.
The bus garage and civic center were not included on that piece of property and were deeded separate. The bus garage property is not specifically noted in the minutes.
Ihle further explained that it was the understanding of the village and commissioners that should other property be needed in the future to install lift stations or other things for the system it would be deeded to the county as necessary for the operation of the system.
It is that bus garage property and the proposed Dollar General sale which prompted the filing of a motion for preliminary injunction and temporary restraining order last week from Meigs County Prosecutor James K. Stanley on behalf of the commissioners.
Judge I. Carson Crow granted a preliminary injunction and temporary restraining order Thursday and scheduled a hearing in the case for Jan. 31.
Outside of fulfilling the Sentinel’s public record request, no public statement had been made by the village until Saturday.
A statement from Burke was posted to the Village of Rutland Facebook page on Saturday afternoon to address the situation.
The statement in its entirety states,
To address concerns regarding the sale of the bus garage property, we have decided to issue a brief statement, and respectfully request to make no further comment until the situation is resolved.
Rutland Village, along with our solicitors, proceeded with the sale of village property with every regard to legal requirements. We, in no way, tried to circumvent any legal processes. We proceeded with the documents and knowledge at hand. Our only wish is to develop businesses for the betterment of our village.
We would love more involvement from our community, and invite you to monthly council meetings. These meetings are the third Tuesday of each month at 6:00 p.m at the village office of the Civic Center.
To those supporting our efforts, Thank You!! We can’t proceed by dwelling on the past, or without your help!
Police Dept. and Staff
A hearing on the injunction is scheduled for 9:30 a.m. on Tuesday in Meigs County Common Pleas Court with visiting Judge Dean Evans presiding.
Reach Sarah Hawley at 740-992-2155 ext. 2555 or on Twitter @SarahHawleyNews.