Members of Archbold Village Council and the village administration spent about an hour making their case in favor of moving St. Rt. 66 to Co. Rd. 24 at the German Township Trustees meeting, Monday, May 9.
At times heated, village officials made several points in favor of the project, including:
•Archbold officials never wanted St. Rt. 66 moved to Co. Rd. 24; all they wanted was a truck bypass similar to Co. Rd. 22.
•Archbold officials are interested in supporting the industrial community to improve truck access and get the 5,000 factory workers who need to get in and out of the village every day faster, safer and easier.
•It is the industrial sector that drives the Archbold economy, and employees spend money in local stores and restaurants, more so than people just driving through.
•Council never said moving trucks and through traffic out of town would not hurt anyone, but many of Archbold businesses are destination businesses, where people seek out a product or service.
Most of those who will be hurt will be restaurants and convenience stores.
•Archbold is planning to spend “real money” for advertising and special signage to direct travelers to Archbold businesses.
It was the mention of council’s intent to advertise and place special signage that quelled some concerns.
When the meeting first opened, Jeff Fryman, mayor, said village officials heard that the trustees were planning to rescind their support for the project.
Randy Ruffer, a township trustee, said the (bypass) was not on the agenda, but had been verbally discussed.
Before the meeting, Bruce Lauber, a township trustee, said he thought he was ready to vote on the issue.
After most Archbold officials left the meeting, Lauber said he wanted to go back and talk with those who had contacted him before voting.
When the meeting opened, Ruffer said he was opposed to the highway relocation project, stating he had heard overwhelming opposition.
He said his biggest concern was safety for slow-moving farm equipment on a state route.
He said the trustees had only agreed to a study of a bypass– that they had not taken a position on an actual route.
Kenneth “Skip” Leupp, trustee, said he was in favor of the project, saying he had lived the first 21 years of his life on St. Rt. 66, hauled grain to the elevator in Elmira, “and lived to tell about it.”
He said 6,600 people live in the township, and that while he didn’t take people’s concerns lightly, he felt the bypass would benefit the majority of the residents.
Lauber initially said he reflected Ruffer’s comments, adding he had received letters, phone calls, and had talked to people about their opposition.
Jim Wyse, former mayor, said over the years the village was looking at a bypass, nothing had changed, and that the trustees not communicating with Archbold was “very disappointing.”
He pointed out the business community provides 75% of German Township tax revenue, and the village of Archbold had spent $300,000 for a study so the township trustees wouldn’t need to.
Wyse said initially, the trustees had said they were not against the study, as long as they didn’t have to pay for it.
Fryman said industries had added or planned to add employees, and increase truck traffic.
For example, ConAgra was planning to go from 150 trucks a week to more than 300.
Lauber asked if Archbold was a bottleneck.
Howell said yes, saying Norfolk Southern was planning to increase train traffic through the village by 50%.
Lauber said that was untrue; train traffic is expected to decrease.
Howell said he’d heard it from an NS employee.
Howell also presented a University of Wisconsin study that said the only retail communities hurt by bypasses were towns with populations of less than 1,000 and communities where retail was “already dying.”
Jerry Hayes, director of Defiance County Economic Development, attended the meeting at the invitation of village council, Howell said.
Hayes told the trustees far more workers travel out of Defiance County to their jobs than travel in.
For example, in a 2013 study, 460 Fulton County residents traveled to Defiance County to work, while 1,002 Defiance County residents went to jobs in Fulton County.
Hayes said he supports the St. Rt. 66 realignment because it will be good for the entire region.
He said the Defiance County commissioners aren’t opposed to the project in Fulton and Henry counties; only that they do not want Domersville Road used as part of the bypass.
Lyle Fogerty, plant manager at Bil-Jax, told the trustees for him, the St. Rt. 66-Co. Rd. 24 issue was trucks.
He reiterated what he told council Monday, May 2: that since going to an out-of-town firm for trucking services, the firm has a hard time getting drivers in and out of the plant.
He said after directing one driver to Co. Rd. 24, the driver said Co. Rd. 24 will become that firm’s preferred route.
Fogerty said a survey of his plant found most workers who live outside of Archbold bypass the village on their way to or from work.
Terry Henricks, owner of Terry Henricks Chrysler- Dodge-Jeep-Ram, also reiterated what he told council at its meeting: that his dealership had done $27 million in sales in the past 12 months.
He said he found the figure of 5,000 out-of-town workers hard to believe, but Wyse explained how he justified the number.
Henricks said he didn’t see the traffic others complained about, and that he couldn’t understand how truck drivers couldn’t find Bil-Jax, especially considering St. Rt. 66 is a “straight shot” from both the north and the south.
When told of Archbold plans to advertise for the business community, Henricks said he was encouraged.
Ruffer said he had not heard about Archbold’s plans to advertise local businesses.
Howell said the local press had “taken on an advocacy role” and wasn’t reporting the news.
(Editor’s note: the Archbold Buckeye reported in its Aug. 6, 2014 edition, that the possibility of setting up electronic billboards, advertising downtown businesses along a rerouted St. Rt. 66, was discussed in the Aug. 4, 2014 village council meeting.)
Lauber commented on the Co. Rd. 22 truck bypass, pointing out it was basically the “Sauder bypass” and lamenting the fact it ended at a dead end, at Co. Rd. C-West Barre Road.
Fryman said the village did not take the lead on that project; that was a project Sauder Woodworking requested from George Voinovich, then-governor.
Ruffer asked village officials about the many merchants who were opposed to the project, saying, “Don’t they mean anything to you?”
“That’s a silly question,” Wyse said.
“It is not a silly question,” Ruffer said, his voice raised.
Ed Leininger, a councilman, said on recent petitions, several businesses that allegedly signed as opposing the project were actually signed by people who were not business owners, and that in some cases, people had signed twice.
The trustees’ next meeting is Monday, May 23, 7 pm, at the township building.