City to buy building to settle lawsuit

By CANDY NEAL
cneal@dcherald.com

HUNTINGBURG — The City of Huntingburg is planning to purchase the building at 317 E. Fourth St. to settle an ongoing encroachment dispute near Market Street Park.

This would settle the lawsuit against the city concerning electric facilities that were constructed on the property, City Attorney Phil Schneider told the Huntingburg Common Council at its meeting Tuesday night.

“Several offers have been made back and forth,” Schneider said, “and the city has continued to incur significant legal fees from our mitigation attorneys in Indianapolis.”

Per the recommendation of Mayor Steve Schwinghamer and former Mayor Denny Spinner, the Huntingburg Common Council members agreed buying the building for $87,500, which is the building’s appraised value. The building contains China Wok on the first floor and apartments on the second floor. The city would also pay $7,500 in damages and $2,800 in survey costs.

In November 2018, Grant Swartzentruber of Washington-based GSES claimed that the city used part of his 317 E. Fourth St. property without permission. He filed a lawsuit that November and then again in February 2019, at which time the city received notice.

The lawsuit stated that the city used GSES’ property for staging and storing materials and equipment without compensating the owner. The courts determined this summer that it was the contractor, not the city, that did, and that part of the suit was dismissed.

Swartzentruber also claimed in the suit that the city permanently installed an underground electrical box on his property.

“We have all spent a lot of time working on this particular issue,” Councilman Jeff Bounds said at Tuesday’s meeting. “What has been proposed is the best alternative that I’ve seen to date, instead of continuing to pay legal costs. I think this [solution] would be the ideal scenario.”

Based on the attorneys’ communications, the plaintiff has indicated a willingness to accept the terms, Schneider said.

Market Street Park, which is located behind Old Town Hall between Third and Fourth streets, opened in October 2018.

The council also:

•Decided to make a counter offer to a developer interested in the city-owned property at the southwest corner of Main and 14th streets. The city received an offer for the land for $175,000, which is the average of two appraisals; with that, the developer requested that the city extend sanitary sewers to the property. The counter offer is to remove a half-acre lot on which the Huntingburg Event Center sign sits, to keep that property in the city’s control and decrease the selling cost to $150,000. With that, the council said it would like to have an easement for a water line on the north side of property and is requesting that development start in the next 18 months. Also, the city would be willing to split with the developer the cost of extending the sewer system to the property and give to the developer half of the fees paid by others who tap into that line, for the next 15 years. Schneider said the counter off will be given to the developer for consideration.

• Heard that the city was awarded $389,334 in Community Crossings grant funding. The money will be used for road work that will be done on Fifth Street between Washington Street and U.S. 231, Washington Street between Fourth and Sixth streets and Jackson Street between Sixth and Eighth streets.

• Told Water Superintendent Gary Meyerholtz to get estimates on the cost for replacing the water plant’s walkway. Meyerholtz said the walkway has some spots that could cause someone to trip.

• Heard that the Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs will start accepting Blight Clearance Program grant applications next summer, possibly in June. The city hopes to get a grant to acquire and rehabilitate the former Dairyland gas station site at 802 N. Main St.




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