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Published: Friday, 8/15/2003

Judge tells Perrysburg to let water, appeal flow

Perrysburg city officials were told once again not to shut off anyone's water - or even threaten to - just because they refuse to sign an annexation petition.

Judge Robert Pollex of Wood County Common Pleas Court yesterday did not find the city in contempt of court for sending letters that threatened to turn off the taps, but the judge clarified an earlier order he'd made on the matter.

Judge Pollex said until the case has run its course in appeals, Perrysburg can't shut off water to township residents who do not sign annexation petitions, can't threaten to do so, can't send threatening letters to water users who are not plaintiffs, and can't use signatures on annexation petitions that have been obtained since his May 30 ruling.

On May 30, Judge Pollex sided with the city in the battle over annexation for water, saying the city did not have a duty to sell water or other products to users outside its boundaries. That decision is under appeal.

He is now hearing a new case filed by another group of township property owners who say they never signed contracts agreeing to be annexed in exchange for water. Yesterday, he issued a preliminary injunction in that case, again prohibiting the city from turning off water or moving forward with annexation until the case is heard.

Perrysburg Law Director Peter Gwynn declined to comment after the hearing.

Todd Zimmerman, attorney for both groups of township residents, said Judge Pollex's ruling should keep the city from taking any action until the cases are heard through the appeals court and, if necessary, through the Ohio Supreme Court.

Mr. Zimmerman said the latest case raises several new legal arguments, including the question of equal protection. When they bought their homes, some township property owners were required to sign contracts saying they would agree to annexation in exchange for city services. Others who bought their homes during a similar time period were not asked to sign such contracts, he said.

“All things being equal or appearing equal, we believe the city cannot arbitrarily choose who it's going to require to sign agreements,” he said.

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