POMEROY — A preliminary injunction and temporary restraining order have been granted to the Meigs County Commissioners against the Village of Rutland.
The ruling by the Meigs County Common Pleas Judge I. Carson Crow on Thursday morning at least temporarily halts the sale of the former Meigs Local Bus Garage.
According to court documents, the village was set to sell the property, which is located next to the Rutland Civic Center, to Dollar General or agents on behalf of Dollar General on Thursday.
The motion was filed by Prosecutor James K. Stanley on behalf of the commissioners late Wednesday afternoon, with the ruling from Crow coming on Thursday morning.
The entries signed by Crow state that “It is apparent to the Court that immediate and irreparable injury, loss or damage will result if the subject property is sold, transferred, or otherwise conveyed.”
The county filed the motion, claiming that it is the county, not the village, who owns the property although the deed was never transferred. According to the claim by the commissioners, the building was part of the water and sewer district which was transferred to the county in April 2012.
According to the complaint, on or about April 26, 2012, the commissioners, through then-President Tom Anderson, and the Village of Rutland, through then-Mayor Lowell Vance, entered into a contract transferring all debts and assets from the Rutland Water and Sewer District to the newly formed Meigs County Water and Sewer District. The Meigs County Water and Sewer District is operated by the commissioners.
Among the property included in the transfer was to be the old bus garage property according to the court documents. The property was utilized by the village as a storage building for the water and sewer district, with it containing a backhoe, sewer tanks, grinder pumps, parts, fittings, pipe and other material for the water and sewer district.
The deed was never transferred by the village to the county, the filing states.
Despite the deed having not been transferred, when the transfer of debts and assets was completed in accordance with the approved contract, Vance provided the commissioners with the utility bills for the building. Those bills have continued to be paid by the commissioners.
The commissioners contend that they have ownership of the property in accordance with the approved contract from April 26, 2012, despite the deed having not been transferred.
While the village knew of the claim of ownership, the complaint states that the village intended to sell the property to a Dollar General or agents acting on behalf of Dollar General on Jan. 26, 2017.
While the paperwork filed with the court was done so due to the county’s claim of ownership, that may not be the only issue with the proposed sale.
In order for a government entity, such as a village, the county, etc., to sell a piece of property there is a procedure which must be followed.
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.
Stanley told the Sentinel that the county’s position is based on the ownership of the property, not whether the possible sale was properly conducted.
Should it be deemed that the county does not have a legal interest in the ownership of the property, it would be possible that other individuals could take legal action over the manner in which the property was being sold, Stanley said.
A public record request was submitted by The Daily Sentinel on Thursday afternoon with the Village of Rutland in relation to the matter.
The Daily Sentinel has requested documentation related to the proposed sale of property by the village, as well as minutes of previous council meetings at which any ordinances could have been approved relating to the possible sale of the property. The Daily Sentinel has requested the information to be provided by the close of business on Friday. No response, including an acknowledgement of the request, has been received as of Sentinel deadline for the Friday edition.
Reach Sarah Hawley at 740-992-2155 ext. 2555 or on Twitter @SarahHawleyNews