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Published: Monday, 7/9/2001

Bay View, township spar over bridge

BY KIM BATES
BLADE STAFF WRITER

BAY VIEW, Ohio - Years ago, no one wanted to own the old Bay Bridge that juts into Sandusky Bay. Now, area leaders all want a piece of it.

The village of Bay View, which took over ownership of the bridge from the state in 1998, has filed a petition to annex the two-acre property from Margaretta Township.

But township trustees plan to fight the request because they don't want to lose township land - especially lakefront property.

"We're opposed to annexation, period. Every piece of property in our eyes is valuable," said Tim Riesterer, a township trustee. "If it starts here, where does it end?"

The abandoned Bay Bridge, which used to connect State Rt. 269 across the bay, was removed in Erie and Ottawa counties in 1988 for safety reasons. The four-lane Edison Memorial Bridge, which runs parallel to the old Bay Bridge, now carries State Rt. 2 traffic across the water.

The remaining part of the old bridge in Ottawa County is owned and used as a fishing pier by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources. Bay View manages the Erie County side, including picking up trash, making improvements, and responding to emergency calls there.

Bay View Mayor Paul Snyder said it makes sense for the village to annex the property, since it already owns the bridge. In addition, the land abuts the village's corporate limits.

He said village council decided to seek the annexation to maintain the area and provide police and fire service.

"I don't know why anybody would not want to give it approval," Mr. Snyder said.

In 1997, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources offered to give the bridge away for free, but there were no takers.

Bay View ended up agreeing to lease the land, even though village leaders were reluctant to do so at first.

Mr. Snyder had cited a concern about paying for the bridge's upkeep. But he said council agreed to own it because they thought an abandoned, fenced-off parcel would be an even greater liability.

In recent years, Mr. Snyder said the bridge has become an asset to the community. At times, 25 to 30 cars are parked there for people who are sight-seeing or fishing.

The village has made upgrades in the last few years. The Ohio Department of Natural Resources gives the village an annual grant to help with upkeep.

Mr. Riesterer admitted that the township never had an interest in owning the bridge. But he said trustees don't want to lose the property, either.

The last annexation of Margaretta Township land was in the late 1960s. Most of the township properties are considered farm land, which people don't want to annex.

The trustee said the township and the village have worked well in recent years in dealings with the bridge. The township provides mutual aid for emergency calls there.

The annexation request will be sent this week to the Erie County auditor, where it will be available for public viewing.

Gary Lickfelt, an assistant county prosecutor, said a hearing would be scheduled on the request between 60 to 90 days after it's filed with the auditor.

Mr. Lickfelt said he's reviewed the petition and has not found any legal flaws with it. He said it's the first such request in the county since 1990.



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