The German Township Trustees voted to oppose the realignment of St. Rts. 66 and 2 to Co. Rd. 24 during its Monday, May 23 meeting.
The vote came after a crowd of more than 30 people attended the meeting to counter the arguments made by Archbold village officials at the May 9 trustee meeting.
The vote on nonsupport for the Co. Rd. 24 project was 2- 1, with Kenneth “Skip” Leupp the only trustee to vote in favor of supporting the project.
Before the vote, Leupp questioned whether fellow trustee Randy Ruffer should vote on the measure, because he has an interest in land along the country road.
Raising his voice, trustee Bruce Lauber said twice Ruffer does not own property along Co. Rd. 24. Leupp countered that Ruffer’s family does.
Ruffer himself said the land ownership question was not a big issue in his mind.
“We have to look at the big picture. The community doesn’t want it. They’re opposed to it,” he said.
While big business may want the realignment of St. Rt. 66, Ruffer said Sauder Woodworking is a big business “and they have nothing to do with Co. Rd. 24.
“Too many in the community do not want this to happen,” he said.
Speaking to the crowd, Ruffer said personally, “I was opposed to this from the get-go. But as a trustee, I felt I had to represent the community and I wanted to hear what they had to say, so I was okay with us pursuing a study or whatever. Now this was way back.
“Since then, it’s just been overwhelming the number of people that I hear are opposed to this.
The only support for the realignment is “coming from that same group on the council,” Ruffer said.
Billye Leininger, owner of Leininger’s Floor Covering on St. Rt. 66 south of Archbold, asked Leupp why he supported the realignment.
“Because I think it’s going to benefit commerce in the area of the four counties,” he said.
Leininger responded, “But what about the people who live on that road? Do you not care for them?
“Of course, you’re not living in the country, so you have no idea how that would affect somebody living there. We’ve heard that before– commerce, commerce, commerce.”
Peggy Oyer, a Co. Rd. 24 resident who acted as the lead spokesman for the group, said the Defiance County commissioners came out against rerouting St. Rt. 66 in their county.
“The Defiance County commissioners have chosen against commerce for their businesses,” said Oyer.
“I understand the mayor and the economic developer (Jerry Hayes, Director of Economic Development for Defiance County) are (for the project); they live in town in Defiance.”
“Hold it right there,” Leupp said. “Everybody who lives in this village is a township resident.”
Brad Grime, owner of Auto Images, asked Leupp if the realigned highway would benefit the four-county area, why didn’t other entities contribute funds to support the project?
Leininger asked Leupp how he would feel if his wife, the former Elizabeth Stotzer, was still involved in the family business, a now-defunct hardware store, in downtown Archbold.
“We’ve argued about that,” Leupp said.
Gene Goering, a resident of Co. Rd. 24, said, “I don’t see too many of them that are here today speaking in favor of it. So where’s all the support for this other than a few individuals in big business?
“We went to the last meeting (with Archbold Village Council on Monday, May 2) and we were very rudely treated by Archbold Council.
“There was no question about that. The comments that were made by the village administrator show the ignorance of the people that live in town for what it means to live in the country.”
(Editor’s note: During the May 2 meeting, there was a discussion of wells that were close to Co. Rd. 24. Dennis Howell, village administrator and former water treatment plant superintendent, said he would not trust the water from such a well “any farther than I can throw this building.”)
In his comments, Grime said he would “probably” say “that the water (from the near-the-road wells) is probably a lot more pure and better to drink than anything that comes out of the Archbold reservoirs.”
In her opening discussion with the trustees, Oyer refuted several points made by village officials:
•To counter the claim that Archbold never asked for the rerouting of St. Rt. 66, Oyer referred to an Ohio Department of Transportation website in which village officials state that when Co. Rd. 24 is improved, St. Rt. 66 could be moved “one mile west of its current location to line up with the Ohio Turnpike interchange and reduce the truck traffic through downtown Archbold.”
“So yes, they did talk about moving St. Rt. 66,” Oyer said.
In an email to this newspaper, Jeff Fryman, mayor, said after no local funding was available to upgrade Co. Rd. 24, funding from ODOT was pursued. The only way ODOT funding was available was to reroute the highway.
•Village officials said the improvement would make it easier for 5,000 village employees to come to or leave work.
Oyer said people are concerned that high school students “exuberant to get out of school” would be careless.
“Sometimes they don’t think, putting them in more danger,” she said.
She also said workers from Sauder Woodworking could use Lafayette Street, putting elementary students who walk to school in danger.
•Village officials also paid for a study of an underpass or overpass for the railroad tracks at Co. Rd. 24.
That, Oyer said, would create a hill, which would decrease visibility, adding to the safety problem.
•Archbold officials told the trustees at their May 9 meeting that the village had spent $300,000 on the project so German Township wouldn’t have to.
“That’s a really bold statement for them to make, because, did any of you approach Archbold and ask for the money?” Oyer said.
•Oyer said Howell allegedly made a statement that community retail “was already dying as a whole.”
“To us,” Oyer said, “this statement just strengthens our belief that the Archbold officials have little regard for small or medium businesses, but are fully supportive of the big industry.”
(Editor’s note: This newspaper reported that during the May 9 trustees meeting, Howell “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.’”)
•Oyer said Ed Leininger, a councilman, had disputed the number of signatures on a four-part petition opposing the project– specifically the signatures of business people opposing the project.
Even if 16 names were removed, Oyer said there are still 50 businesses opposed to the highway realignment.
•Oyer also commented on the potential damage to the Gerald Grain Elevator, which is along Co. Rd. 24, if an overpass is built.
Grime said if an underpass or overpass is built, there would be a total relocation of the elevator, or “they’re just going to move out of town.”
•Oyer also brought up the concerns of people who live on Co. Rd. 24, saying, “They are probably the least (of the concerns) of all the officials, but there’s a lot of emotions, a lot of life savings into their properties.
“They bought them on a country road, not a state highway.”
Persons at the trustee meeting made several comments in relation to the contention by Lyle Fogerty, plant manager at Bil-Jax, that trucks have trouble making their way through Archbold and finding Bil- Jax in the village Industrial Park.
Tony Rupp, an owner of Rupp Furniture, said, “How can that be? I mean, they’re less than a quarter of a mile off St. Rt. 66. All they have to do is make a right-hand turn, and they’re there.”
Grime and Rupp said Bil- Jax did not have signage up directing trucks to the plant.
“They haven’t spent a dime on signage… They’re so concerned, but they’re not willing to spend a nickel.
“I spent $40,000 for my electronic billboard so people can see me,” Grime said.
Marlene Huber, owner of The Corner Gallery, said council had discussed putting up a billboard to direct traffic into downtown.
“That’s rather a joke if we all have to be honest. How many of us pay attention to a billboard and follow it… to go into town if we’re going from one point to the next,” Huber said.
Several at the meeting said businesses along the current St. Rt. 66 depend on the highway traffic past their businesses for business.
Rerouting the highway would be “a blow to every business located on St. Rt. 66 and St. Rt. 2,” Huber said.
“All of those businesses have located there for that reason, to draw traffic in. We depend on that.”
Rupp said, “If we are going to move this out of town, I just think retail is going to suffer.
“I don’t see how it cannot.”
Underlying the whole scheme of civilization is the confidence men have in each other, confidence in their integrity, confidence in their honesty, confidence in their future.–William Bourke Cockran