Fiscal Court Debates Land Issues
The Butler County Fiscal Court held its monthly meeting for August on Monday night, August 13th, 2013. All Court members were present, along with a fairly large crowd of visitors and interested parties. Most of the extra attendees showed up because of recent media reports of a sale of property in Butler county by the City of Bowling Green. The property in question was allegedly being sold to Owl’s Head Alloys for the purpose of opening a landfill.
After several items of routine business, County Judge-Executive David Fields turned the discussion to whether the county would waive its right to first refusal to buy the property. Said Fields, “This is what I think got our crowd here tonight.”
Fields told the room that magistrates would have the first chance to ask questions and discuss the property, then citizens would be allowed input.
County Attorney Dick Deye took the floor to explain the current state of the sale as he understood it. According to Deye the county had been notified that the City of Bowling Green intended to sell 67 acres of an unused portion of their closed 256-acre landfill property on Rochester Road, in what is commonly referred to as the Doolin’s Lake area. Deye stated that the contract drawn with the City of Bowling Green in 1977 gave the City of Morgantown, and the Butler County Fiscal Court the right of first refusal of any sale of the property or a portion of the property.
Fourth District Magistrate David Whittinghill asked Deye if the sale of the property would absolve Bowling Green from their responsibilities for the closed landfill. Deye said that stipulations could be made to require continued upkeep and responsibility for the rest of the property. Deye also explained that the question before the Court the county government’s right to waive their right of refusal on the property, and not the issuance of a permit to open a landfill on the parcel of land. Deye also explained that it was his understanding that Owl’s Head Alloys intended to buy the land for $167,500 and open a landfill to dispose of salt cakes and salt slag if they bought the property. He also stated there was no guarantee they would be issued the proper permits per the county’s recently adopted landfill ordinance.
Third District Magistrate Chad Tyree asked Judge Fields if the county had 180 days to make a decision on property. Fields said that the county had 180 from the time of notification to make its decision and that they had been notified approximately two months ago. Tyree asked how they had been notified, and Fields answered that the notification came along with documents passed out to the magistrates prior to the meeting. Second District Magistrate Johnny Tuck then asked Fields if the land was of any value to the county and was assured it was not.
Morgantown City Councilman Terrell House then asked for the floor. House stated that he had not seen a legal notice concerning the sale. He also told the Court that the Morgantown City Council had considered the purchase of the property for $167,500 for eventual sale to adjoining land owners.
Judge Fields asked House if he thought neighboring landowners would be interested in buying the property. House answered yes, and indicated some interested landowners in attendance at the meeting. House also added that in his opinion the 180 day grace period had not started because there had been no official notification from the City of Bowling Green.
Morgantown Councilman Allen Meredith then addressed the Court. Meredith said that the proposed landfill would contain hazardous materials including salt cakes. He stated that his research had revealed that salt cake landfills are dangerous, and in some cases accidents had happened when the cakes came into contact with ground water. “There’s a place in Ohio I think where a landfill has been burning for years.” He further added that Owl’s Head Alloys is not creating man jobs in Butler County, “. . . so why should we take their waste?”
Concerned citizen Dale Franklin, from Provo, was next to speak. Franklin explained the current state of the sale as he saw it. “We are meeting here because of something that was in the newspaper,” said Franklin. “We haven’t been officially notified by Bowling Green, we’re meeting because of rumors in the news.”
Fifth District Magistrate Keith Daugherty, who is an Owl’s Head Employee, told the Court that according to the City of Bowling Green it was the responsibility of the buyer to obtain the release from the county and city.
Franklin then asked the Court how the fair market value of the property was set. He was told by County Attorney Deye, and by Judge Fields that Owl’s Head Alloys’ offer of $167,500 set the fair market price at that amount.
Former Judge-Executive candidate and concerned citizen Joey Franzell then asked Keith Daugherty if he was employed by Owl’s Head, to which Daugherty responded yes. Franzell then asked the Court why it would let Owl’s Head think they would get a permit for a landfill on the property if the Court had no intention of issuing one. Franzell was told by Fields and Deye that the question before the Court concerned liability and not the issuance of a permit.
After closely examining the letter that informed the city and county of the potential sale, Dale Franklin again took the floor. “This came from Owl’s Head, not the City of Bowling Green,” said Franklin. He further said that in his opinion the proper notifications had not been given to the city and county.
Magistrates and the County Attorney then read the materials again, and agreed with Franklin’s assessment. Both County Attorney Deye, and former Morgantown Mayor Eva Hawes told the Court that the notification had to come from the City of Bowling Green, and because of that the proper notifications had not been issued.
Citizen Don Jenkins was next to speak. Jenkins told the Court, if Owl’s Head are buying the land, then they must think they will get the permit for the landfill.
Joey Franzell took the floor again, again questioning Magistrate Keith Daugherty directly. Said Franzell, “Keith, are you working as an agent for Owl’s Head?” Daugherty responded, “No.”
Franklin spoke again, saying, “Point of order, it (the property) ain’t for sale, we ain’t been notified.”
Third District Magistrate Chad Tyree expressed another concern about the potential sale. Tyree wanted to know if the right of refusal would still be in place for the unsold portion of the property. Dick Deye told Tyree that that would need to be negotiated and language retaining the right of first refusal put into any contract with the City of Bowling Green concerning the sale.
Second District Magistrate Johnny Tuck asked Judge Fields if the matter could be tabled until an official notice of sale was issued by the City of Bowling Green. Fields answered yes, and tabled the matter without action.
Story by Joe Morris, Beech Tree News/WLBQ