County, city at odds over River Trail

385-foot easement disputed

Washington County Commissioners voted Thursday to revoke an easement for the Marietta River Trail, purchased a building and additional parking, and approved the placement of a children services levy on the May 2018 ballot.

River Trail

A disputed 385 linear feet on county property southeast of the Marietta Wastewater Plant was the focus of a vote by commissioners Thursday.

“We gave (Marietta administration) the opportunity to negotiate and provide a different plan but yesterday at the (Wood-Washington-Wirt Interstate Planning Commission) meeting they said they plan to break ground by spring. I said wait, you don’t have a right of way,” said commissioner David White.

The city obtained an easement for the riverbank portion of the city’s engineering overflow area at Jefferson Street and below the plotted alley south of Pierce Street in 2011 when the connection of the trail out to the Walmart shopping plaza was originally a part of River Trail Phase III.

The commissioners said that because the piece of property outlined in the easement was never used in the five-year term agreed upon in the easement, that original agreement is now a year past expiration.

“They’ll need to have a discussion with (the Ohio Department of Transportation),” said City Engineering Project Manager Eric Lambert. “We’ve gone through ODOT District 10 and the central office on this issue and the right of way is secured for this project. We will be filing final plans before the end of the year and then it will be on ODOT’s timeline to bid, award and execute the contract.”

White said the city has the option to purchase the land outright, or at least the half of the lot closest to the river.

“They can buy the property or go around,” he said. “If we traded that for some of the obligation on the sewer that’s not off the table either.”

The property’s estimated value is between $312,450 and $556,500 and would not be covered under federal funding grants currently awarded for the project.

Purchase

The commissioners approved the purchase agreement between the county and Chase Bank for the three-quarter-acre lot between Second and Third streets currently home to a parking lot and retired bank drive-thru.

“When this property first came up for sale we thought it was a no-brainer,” said White. “It makes sense to renovate and move offices in there so we can stop paying rent elsewhere.”

Currently, the county has rental spaces for the Title Bureau, Veterans Affairs office and public defender office but the commissioners would not say which offices could move into the building closest to Third Street.

“We did offer for the bank to keep their ATM there for the good of the public but they are planning on moving it off the property,” added Commissioner Rick Walters.

Washington County Auditor Bill McFarland said he believed the purchase was a smart move to build equity for the county instead of continuing to pay rent elsewhere.

“And obviously with that number of parking spots available I hope more employees will take advantage of those stalls,” he said.

According to the parking survey conducted by Buckeye Hills Regional Council and a digital mapping students at Marietta College this year, 55 parking spaces are currently available in that lot.

Levy

With advances on their original budget of $1.4 million gone by October, Washington County Children Services relied on the county general fund until federal dollars came through Thursday to pay back funds needed to take care of foster children.

On Thursday, the commissioners approved a plan in an effort to alleviate that financial burden.

With a unanimous vote, they gave their blessing for a 0.55- mill, 5-year levy to be placed on the May 2018 ballot.

Originally the proposal from Children Services was for a 10-year, 0.53-mill levy but the commissioners amended that proposal to five years and 0.55 mills with an option to renew.

“Ten years is a long time to agree to a levy,” said White. “My personal opinion is you’ve got to give the public an opportunity to verify that they’re still willing to pay it.”

Other business

The commissioners also approved a temporary change to the Washington-Morgan Community Action Bus Line for the next three months.

Community Action recommended the change in service to compensate for a loss of funds from the state. By changing the fixed route in Marietta on Saturday to a deviated fixed route service Commissioners’ Clerk Rick Peoples said the 359-hour decrease was “least disruptive” to local residents.

“It’s a three-quarter mile deviation off of the fixed route,” said Peoples. “This will be a three-month trial period. ODOT has already indicated they will approve this. If it does continue then there will need to be public hearings on it.”

The decrease in service would reduce costs by $16,618.11.

“That hourly includes insurance, fuel, pay and maintenance,” said Peoples.

Upcoming dates

¯ Courthouse closed: Monday.

¯ Special meeting to adopt appropriations resolutions: Dec. 29 at 4 p.m.

¯ Courthouse closed: Jan. 1.

¯ Organizational meeting: Jan. 8, 9 a.m.

Source: Washington County Commissioners.

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