CALCUTTA-St. Clair Township Trustees made it clear they will no longer allow their meetings to be a platform for either side of the Moore Road controversy to make their case.
The announcement comes after several months-worth of bi-weekly trustees meetings in which both parties have, at times, dominated large portions of the meetings.
With members of the Moore Road Horse Association and their neighbors in attendance Tuesday, trustees called an executive session under Ohio Revised Code section 121.22 G (3): "Conferences with an attorney for the public body concerning disputes that are the subject of pending or imminent court action". Trustees invited Fiscal Officer Deborah Dawson and township police chief Don Hyatt to join them in executive session.
Trustees returned roughly 20 minutes later with what appeared to be a prepared statement read by Trustee Chairman Robert Swickard: "This body has deliberately not returned phone calls, messages, and avoided any and all contact with the parties involved, at our attorney's request," said Swickard. "This unfortunately has raised tensions and frustrations. Due to the volatility and a threatened lawsuit we have stated multiple times, on the record, we can not and will not make any statements on this matter. A simple request was made in January and granted. From that a civil war has erupted and put us as trustees in a difficult position. Living in a small community, one cannot help knowing one or both the parties and straining friendships. I personally have been accused of favoring one side over the other. The strip of land in question was surveyed and marked. After that determination we stated we could not keep anyone from using that public land. This is not a right-of-way but this is piece of land owned in fee by the township. The property owners directly border that land have in their rights a means to petition the county to vacate that land. It is our understanding that this is on-going. The county commissioners will ask our opinion, but ultimately it is their decision. The other interested party represented by Mr. and Mrs. Bramel will oppose action, either way it is not up to this board to settle. If Mr. and Mrs. Bramel want to oppose whatever action has been taken or will be taken it is in their rights and can be addressed in court, not in this meeting forum. We will today ask the county engineer's department to survey Moore Road. That should answer Mr. Holdin's question but may bring up a lot more. Once again, we as the board of trustees will not hear or answer any questions in regards to this matter. Public comment is solely left to our discretion and we have been more than fair. With that being said, if there's any matter that does not pertain to this matter or similar said issues we will hear them. We ask that you abide by our wishes."
After Swickard concluded the statement, many of the involved parties left the meeting. However, several members of the Moore Road Horse Association, including Charles and Laura Bramel, stayed. Swickard once again informed them trustees would be making no further comment about anything pertaining to Moore Road.
"I heard you say that and we respect that but the portion of Moore Road in front of Mike's (Holdin) you don't want to talk about that either?" asked Charles Bramel.
"Anything to do with any of those strips of land-nothing," said Swickard.
Still, Bramel continued claiming that the portion which runs in front of Holdin's property had had road funds collected for it over several years. He requested that Dawson provide him with a total of revenue collected for that portion of roadway.
Swickard responded that he had spoken with the county auditor in regards to the request, which Bramel had made previously.
"I talked to the county auditor about that and she said it was a state formula and it would be up to them to try to figure out," said Swickard. "Who knows what this survey is going to do."
Bramel then suggested both parties go to a judge and get a declaratory judgment regarding the controversy. He asked if trustees would be interested in doing so and noted that there was little cost involved.
Swickard responded that trustees had been advised by their legal counsel to wait to take such steps until after county commissioners make a decision regarding the vacation of the right-of- way, which is currently pending.
Bramel has mentioned at past meetings that he would like to take the issue before a judge whether by way of a lawsuit or declaratory judgment.