GREENVILLE — Leaders from the City of Greenville and Darke County met in a special session Tuesday evening to hash out concerns regarding the construction of a fuel stop south of the city.
During Greenville City Council’s August 18 meeting, Darke County Commissioner Mike Rhoades asked council to meet with the Darke County Board of Commissioners to discuss the Erwin Bros. fuel stop being constructed at the county’s South Industrial Park, at the juncture of U.S. Route 127 and Ohio Route 49.
In March, the city and county signed off on a pre-annexation agreement and contract to provide water and sewer services to the Darke County Sheriff’s Office, the County Home, and the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) garage, also currently under construction.
The Erwin Bros. fuel stop, was not included in the agreement. Marc Erwin and Mike Erwin, owners of Erwin Bros. Trucking, were also in attendance at the meeting.
In order to sign a pre-annexation agreement with the Erwins, the city has sought the installation of curbs, sidewalks, storm infrastructure, and a widening of the road between Erwin Bros. and the ODOT garage as a condition for future annexation.
Rhoades said the commissioners — himself, Diane Delaplane, and Mike Stegall — after conversations with former Greenville Mayor Mike Bowers, were under the impression the Erwin Bros. facility would be included in the agreement. When the agreement was signed, however, that property was not included.
“When it got changed — we’re at fault — we did not see the line drawn where it was in the road and did not read the description of it, because we three were under the impression that everybody was on the same page,” Rhoades said.
The city’s contention, under city ordinance 1040.03, passed in 1989, is that it cannot sell city services to private individuals or businesses outside city limits. One exception occurred in 1998, when the city authorized water and sanitary services for the Darke County Fairgrounds.
“We’re not trying to pull anything over anybody’s eyes,” said Mike Stegall. “We just want to get the Erwins in and have their business and help the county, that’s what it’s all about.”
When Councilman Todd Oliver asked what the real issue was, Rhoades replied, “It’s simple. We signed all the documents thinking that the whole property was under the pre-annexation agreement that we signed, which we were led to believe that we [the county] would buy the water from you [the city] at a 150-percent rate. It was all going to be just a matter of flow-through back and forth.”
“We sold property to the Erwin Bros. with the understanding, from the mayor and whoever all we had in there, that the whole farm out there was going to be pre-annexed in, and to make it legal, you would sell us water, we would sell it, and in turn pay you back 150 percent of the sewer,” Rhoades added.
“We’re not charging Erwin Bros. any more,” said Stegall. “You’re billing us, we’re billing them, they pay us, we pay you.”
“The way I’m looking at it, the city and the county have an intergovernmental agreement,” said Council President John Burkett. “Whatever deals, you as a county commission, made with other entities, the city has nothing to do with.”
Marc Erwin asked council “Why is our agreement different than ODOT’s agreement, for the same area? They don’t have all this other stuff that they need to do. Ours has all these other stipulations that you want done, just on the other side of the road.”
Safety/Service Director Curt Garrison said, “We did not as a city review construction plans for the road. We didn’t know how it was going to go in.”
“That road is not wide enough,” Garrison added. “The issue is, this is the agreement we have in place, those are the needs that we feel would need to be met on annexation, and it’s what we have control over at the time. Why not go ahead and widen the road on both sides right now and get it to where it needs to be?”
Discussion turned to whether or not the road was indeed wide enough to handle the expected amount of heavy vehicle traffic to the ODOT garage and the fuel stop, and if it was to be widened, who would be expected to pay for it. Neither the city, the Erwin Bros. nor the county wishes to be held responsible for the potential cost of widening the road. The commissioners and the Erwins believe it is wide enough; the city disagrees.
Councilman Leon Rogers asked the Erwins what the two would like to see happen.
Marc Erwin responded, saying, “I would like to have the same thing that ODOT got. There’s no reason for sidewalks. The road doesn’t need to be widened out any farther, no curbs. They don’t have this anywhere else in industrial areas. Why do we have to have it all of a sudden? It doesn’t make much sense. I’ll sign the same agreement as what ODOT’s got.”
Councilman Tracy Tryon pointed out that a number of areas zoned industrial in the city limits possess either curbs or sidewalks, including KitchenAid Way, Greenville Township Fire Department on Sater Street, and portions of Greenville Industrial Park.
“When and if that becomes ‘in the city,’ the city becomes responsible for it,” Tryon said. “We have to upkeep the road, and upkeep everything out there. If we’re going to take something over, we want it to be in pretty good shape when we get it and not have to reconstruct it.”
While crediting current Mayor Steve Willman with “trying to get things done” between the city and the company, Erwin accused the city administration of being stubborn in its insistence on the business building the infrastructure at the property.
“If you guys had come in and said, ‘In the future — sidewalks,’ I would have signed it and been done with it,” he said. “But you guys have tried to take too much, way too much. You want roads, curbs and sidewalks.”
Oliver asked City Attorney Eric Brand if the city could waive the requirements in this instance.
“This is something the council has the authority to enforce, and should enforce as a matter of law, and can also make waivers of such things,” Brand responded. “The point here is, we don’t know at what point such a waiver would be appropriate, so it’s your job right now to enforce what exists.”
The Erwins, hoping to get the business opened by December 1, expressed a willingness to continue negotiations with Greenville. If they cannot come to an agreement with the city, the brothers will explore other options.