By Sean Rice
A parcel of land that Celina officials are eying for a possible new electric department location is the topic of dispute in a lawsuit filed recently.
Celina City Council members meeting on Monday night went into an executive session to discuss the city's part in a lawsuit against Piper Trucking owner, Steve Piper, filed by Heffner Investments.
According to Mercer County Common Pleas Court documents, Heffner Investments is suing to evict Piper from a seven-acre parcel west of Deford Street. Heffner owns the land and has been renting to Piper, but last year agreed to lease the property to the city of Celina, with an option to purchase.
Safety-Service Director Mike Sovinski said the agreement has not yet been acted on because of the dispute between Piper and Heffner Investments. Piper came to the city council meeting last July when the agreement was approved and told officials he has first option to purchase the land. Since then, he has refused to vacate the property.
In the lawsuit, Celina is asked to either state its intention to follow through with the lease contract, or drop its claim on the property. Twenty-eight days are given to respond. Council members took no official action after nearly an hour-long closed-door meeting.
This morning, Sovinski said council members have not decided how to answer the suit. Members will meet again in committee, possibly in executive session, to discuss the city's response, he said. When the time comes, a letter will be drafted by Law Director Kevin McKirnan.
The agreement signed last year between the city and Heffner Investments states Celina will lease the property for $1,500 monthly, and have an option to purchase after 18 months for $180,000. The property has two large steel buildings and lies north of Heirholzer Street and west of Deford Street.
Council members planned to hold a utilities committee meeting immediately following the council meeting Monday, but it was canceled due to the extended executive session.
Earlier, council members quickly dispensed the three items of official business on the agenda.
An ordinance was approved that reallocates approximately $25,000 in consulting funds within the city budget to pay for community development services, particularly for consultants Kent Bryan and Ron Puthoff.
Auditor Pat Smith told members there should be enough community development funds available now for the rest of the year.
Members passed to second reading an ordinance that would allow Smith to invest up to $3 million in a longer-term account. Active city funds are required by law to be invested for terms shorter than 12 months, Sovinski said. Declaring $3 million inactive will allow for a longer investment period and greater interest income. The ordinance came about after members recently questioned a $3 million-plus carryover balance in the electric department.
Also, councilors on Monday passed to second reading an ordinance setting the zoning of 14 acres recently annexed into Celina general business (B-1). The land houses Roy's Carry-out and lies north of Ohio 29 and west of Meyer Road. A required public meeting was set for 7 p.m. June 28, just before the council meeting.