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Salineville property transfers are problematic

May 23, 2010
Morning Journal News

Salineville Mayor Dave Berta had a good idea this past week but one that came a bit too late to avoid possible problems.

At the Village Council meeting, Berta suggested the property committee meet to discuss options for three buildings donated to the town by Huntington Bank.

The question is, why is the property committee being called in at this late date when it has been shut out of all earlier negotiations for the building donation?

Up until now, no property committee meeting had been held in regard to the donation, including input on whether or not the buildings can even be afforded or whether the town wanted them.

Those negotiations were apparently conducted solely by Mayor Berta sometime after the initial donation was offered by the bank. The next anyone knew about it was when the village solicitor reported earlier this year he was working on transfer of the properties.

Council has never even voted to accept the donation, a step taken by every governing body we cover when a donation is made. The village now has three buildings with no idea whether they are affordable.

The mayor took it upon himself to have them appraised by a Realtor and an auctioneer then handed three options to the property committee to choose from.

Why wasn't the committee involved in any discussion with the Realtor and auctioneer in the first place? Who authorized the mayor to take this step? Was there a cost involved? None of these questions had been posed or discussed by council beforehand, at least publicly.

Now, we also have the mayor giving the property committee credit for recommending a sale of property outside town to a Carroll County resident when it appears the committee had very little, if any, input in that plan.

At this week's council meeting, Berta said it was "the property committee's recommendation" to sell the property to Darl Ferguson, yet there has been no committee meetings on the issue, which committee member Anna Earich earlier confirmed, saying member Jim Howdershelt took it on as a project.

Of course, as it turns out, the Morning Journal's investigation showed the sale as proposed by Mayor Berta was illegal, since property can only be sold after proper advertising and competitive bidding.

Once that came to light, Councilman Wayne Leishman decided the village could just vacate the property in question and give it away to the Carroll County resident.

Again, the Morning Journal's investigation indicates this, too, might require public advertisements and competitive bidding, a situation that surely should have been investigated before council voted to do so.

Why have the village solicitor and property committee not been involved in these land-related issues? Why are such important decisions being made on the spur of the moment at council meetings where they are proposed without any prior discussion?

Council is the decision-making body in the village, not the mayor, and council members need to step up to the plate and assume the duties they were elected to handle, not allow the mayor to make these willy-nilly decisions that end up coming back to bite them on the rump due to lack of investigation, planning and forethought.

This means prior discussion, directing the solicitor to thoroughly investigate the legalities and approving any move that could cost the village money in the long run.

 
 

 

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