City’s Black-Eye is Their Own Fault

by Ryan Berry, The Early Bird

After 23 years of covering meetings, one might think I would no longer be surprised at some of the decisions I see. A lot of times it’s like watching Sesame Street when they start singing, “One of these things is not like the other. One of these things just doesn’t belong…” That’s when they show four signs that say ordinances, resolutions, regulations and common sense.

I can usually judge how things will go and I thought for sure someone would realize how silly this was getting and the EB (Erwin Bros.) Fuel Center would open in December. I was correct to some extent. The Darke County Commission finally agreed to pay for road widening once the county’s industrial park is annexed into the city. The Erwins were told by city officials to work it out with the county and that’s exactly what they did. The commission has been a champion of the Erwins’ project and has gone above and beyond to get this business open. What I didn’t see coming was the city changing the rules in the middle of the game.

The commission is not completely without fault in this matter. Their biggest mistake was to make an assumption. They assumed private businesses would get the same pre-annexation agreement as ODOT and other governmental agencies. That agreement did not include the installation of curbs, gutters, sidewalks, streetlights, storm sewer and road widening. I guess it’s true what they say when you assume.

I’m not sure what the city is trying to accomplish. Why take the original pre-annexation agreement off the table when you knew you were making headway and replace it with an open-ended agreement that is not better for this or any other business? The new agreement calls for the Erwins to commit to an unknown. The language that called for road widening, curbs, sidewalks, etc. was replaced with an agreement to follow the City Development Requirements. If Erwin signs this agreement, they will require to follow the zoning requirements from the date of annexation. Who knows what kind of legislation our representative will dream up over the next 40, 50, 60 or more years? The city doesn’t even follow the requirements it is trying to have the Erwins follow. Jaysville-St. John from State Route 571 to Sebring Warner Road has eight industrial businesses, yet the road isn’t as wide as the road in the county’s industrial park and there are no curbs or sidewalks.

Council has said it’s not about sidewalks and its about the Erwins not signing the agreement. Wrong! It is about a ridiculous requirement for sidewalks in an industrial park that won’t see much walking. It’s about unfair treatment of a private business compared to a governmental entity. Its about getting an agreement to pay for road widening and then changing the rules.

My question to council members and the administration is why? You more or less came to a consensus on the original agreement, but then you got greedy. You had the commission agreeing to foot the bill for road widening if the property is annexed and you turned down the county’s offer because you wanted the business to pay for it. Is it because they aren’t in the city limits and you don’t care about businesses you have no control over? Maybe that’s it. Maybe you are a little jealous that you can’t control the size of their sign or you won’t get the income tax money from the employees over this when you have done little to diffuse the fight.

Commissioners say they have other businesses lined up to call the industrial park home, but progress is halted until the Erwin issue is decided. The commissioners believe this issue will set a precedent for future businesses in the park. I’m not quite ready to buy into the theory because that would require common sense thinking by our governmental entities.

Do you want to make a difference? There’s two ways to achieve change. One would require people to set up and run for office. The other way is to get actively involved and call your representatives or come to a meeting and tell them how you feel. You hired them. Here is a listed of your elected officials, council members and commissioners  – Mayor Steve Willman, Council President John Burkett, Council Members Tracy Tryon, Todd Oliver, Leon Rogers, Clarence Godwin, Dorin Howdieshell, John Hensley, and Doug Schmidt and Commissioners Mike Stegall, Mike Rhoades and Matt Aultman. Their contact information can be found on the city and county’s website.