DARKE COUNTY — A letter sent to the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) contends that the City of Greenville is holding the Erwin Bros. fuel stop “hostage,” and is seeking the agency’s agreement that the city is not cooperating with the business and county.
Dated Dec. 21, 2016, attorneys representing the Darke County Board of Commissioners and Erwin Bros. Trucking of Ansonia, mailed the letter to the EPA officials regarding a months-long dispute between the county, the Erwins and the city.
The opening of the Erwin Bros. fuel center, originally slated for Dec. 1, has been on hold due to the Erwins refusal to sign a pre-annexation agreement with the city as a prelude for providing water and sewer services to the business at a rate of 150 percent above the normal rate.
The Erwins, as well as the county commissioners, claim certain provisions within the agreement are too costly and unnecessary. These provisions include the possible construction of sidewalks and storm sewers and a desire by the city to see a widening of the road (Industrial Way Road) between the fuel stop and the recently constructed Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) garage.
A pre-annexation agreement between the city and county to provide water and sewer services to county properties, including the Darke County Sheriff’s Office, Jail, and the County Home, was signed by the county in March. This agreement, however, did not include other privately owned properties at the county’s South Industrial Park near the intersection of U.S. Route 127 and State Route 49.
The letter outlines a history of interactions between the three entities. It states that in May 2016, the Darke County Engineer provided the city with water and sewer plans for the city to review and approve. On May 31, Greenville Township approved the plans, “based on EPA approval of the same.”
The city reportedly sent a letter, June 6, regarding the adequacy of the road between the fuel stop and the ODOT garage in regards to increased truck traffic. The attorneys’ letter states, “At no point did the City raise the issue of [Erwin Bros.] paying for infrastructure improvements in the area.
In July 2016, the Erwins notified Greenville that they would soon be ready to hook up to city water and sewer. The city sent a draft pre-annexation agreement, which, according to the letter, “the City indicated needed to be signed prior to the provision of water and sewer services.”
However, the attorneys’ letter states the pre-annexation agreement presented to the Erwins differed from the agreement signed with the county. The proposed agreement, according to the letter, “required that [Erwin Bros.] construct substantial new infrastructure improvements, including the widening of Darke County Industrial Way Road, the installation of sidewalks and lighting, and the installation of storm water sewers along the road.”
The attorneys assert in a detailed addendum, that the proposed improvements would cost $692,239.12. It is also claimed this was the first time that the Erwins became aware that the city “intended to condition water and sewer services on costly infrastructure improvements.”
In both public and private discussions, the city, the county and the business reached no agreement on how to proceed, with the Erwins declining to sign the agreement as it was written.
“At this point, [Erwin Bros.] is in an increasingly impossible position,” the letter states. “The City refuses to provide water and sewer services unless [Erwin Bros.] agrees to unanticipated infrastructure improvements which would cost almost $700,000. However, because [the property] is within the City’s service area, the City opposes any effort by [Erwin Bros.] to construct on-site water and sewer, claiming that water and sewere services are available to [Erwin Bros.].”
“[Erwin Bros.] now has a fully built truck stop that cannot be operated without water and sewer. If not for the refusal of the City to provide water and sewer services, the truck stop would be operating now. From the County’s perspective, the actions of the City are hindering development of the site and harming an established business in the region, with substantial negative impact on the economic development of the property and the area,” the letter adds.
“Given all of the above, it is clear that the City is holding survival of the [Erwin Bros.] development hostage in order to exact commitments by [Erwin Bros.] to pay for substantial infrastructure improvements,” it says.
“While water and sewer services may be physically accessible at the [Erwin Bros.] Parcel, under these circumstances, the City has made clear that water and sewer services are not available to [Erwin Bros.]. As such, we would ask for [EPA’s] comments as to the position on this issue, and urge that the agency agree that water and sewer is not available to the [Erwin Bros.] Parcel through the City of Greenville,” the letter asks.
On Nov. 9, County Commissioner Mike Stegall proposed that the county would be willing to front the cost of widening Industrial Way Road at county cost if the city would agree to amend the pre-annexation agreement with the Erwin Bros. The city’s Law Committee held a hearing on the request, initially recommended against renegotiating the agreement, with a minority report submitted in favor of reopening renegotiations, but then withdrew both committee reports from consideration by the full council on Dec. 20. No futher movement has been made on the issue.
The Daily Advocate contacted the City of Greenville for comment regarding the letter. Greenville Safety/Service Director Curt Garrison said the city had no comment at this time.