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Trustees OK mediation in arena dispute

Perrysburg Township trustees voted yesterday to enter into mediation with the city of Rossford to resolve litigation over the Rossford Arena Amphitheater Authority and other issues of contention.

Rossford city council is scheduled to decide at their meeting Monday whether to join in the mediation.

According to the agreement approved by township trustees, Prof. Robert J. Hopperton of the University of Toledo college of law, will mediate as a neutral party for $195 per hour. Rossford will give a $9,000 down payment for the mediation and, if it reaches a settlement with the township on the pending litigation, the township will reimburse half the cost.

The township filed two lawsuits against Rossford and the RAAA over a planned $48 million arena-amphitheater project. Construction ceased in November, 1999, so the township wants to recoup $5 million it contributed to the project.

Other issues to be discussed include annexation agreements, the implementation of revenue and tax sharing agreements, and the sufficiency of fire and emergency services to the Crossroads of America project between U.S. 20 and State Rt. 795 near I-75.

The township's willingness to participate in mediation hinged on Rossford providing requested records, which it recently handed over to the township trustees, Trustee Chairman Nathan Hagemeister said.

The trustees also pledged to work with officials from the city of Perrysburg to assuage the concerns of residents in the township's Oakmont and Oak Meadows subdivisions who must agree to annexation in return for sewer service.

"We'll try to come up with a satisfactory bandage for the sore that we have," Mr. Hagemeister said.

Residents of the subdivisions must receive sewer service from the city starting this spring, according to an agreement the city and township reached last year. The subdivisions have been getting sewer service through the regional water and sewer district.

The city will not demand annexation for another 98 years if it abides by the agreement with the township. "We're not breaking the agreement, that's for sure," Perrysburg Mayor Jody Holbrook said last week.

City council President Kim Klewer attended the meeting to assure township residents they will not be annexed before the agreement expires unless the township breaks its part of the bargain by taking away water and sewer customers or opposing annexation in other areas.

He said signing the annexation clause is standard procedure for new recipients of sewer service.

But Oakmont and Oak Meadows dwellers recall that the city tried to annex the subdivisions before a moratorium on annexation expired.

In 1998, the city sued 300 property owners in Oakmont and Oak Meadows who resisted annexation after signing a contract that tied annexation to water and sewer service. The township residents won a countersuit because a Wood County common pleas judge ruled that residents signed the contract based on a 1990 agreement between the city and township that placed a moratorium on annexation of 10 years in some areas, 20 in others.

The city contended that the moratorium was void because the township breached the agreement, but the judge ruled that it was still in effect.

Mr. Klewer and the trustees said they will prepare a document stating the city-township agreement applies to the sewer service contract's annexation clause. Now that sewer service in the two subdivisions has reverted to the city, those residents will pay 125 percent of the sewer rate city residents are charged now.

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