2014-07-26 / News

Lawsuit over sale of old firehouse is settled

By Scott Rawdon

THORNVILLE– A lawsuit over the sale of the former Thornville/ Thorn Township firehouse in the Village of Thornville is settled, and the building is back in the hands of the township and village following a lengthy suit.

In 2011, Thorn Township advertised and “sold” the former firehouse, located in downtown Thornville at 25 E. Columbus St., to former Thorn Township Trustee Tim Phipps. Unfortunately, at that time a title search undertaken for that sale allegedly did not uncover the fact that the Village of Thornville partially owned the building. When Phipps tried to sell the building, the dual ownership was discovered. A lawsuit was initiated to straighten out the mess.

“The village was named in a lawsuit concerning the property,” said Thornville Mayor Gavin Renner. “The documents related to that suit are public record and should be available for scrutiny. The lawsuit was settled this month and all parties signed off on the agreement.”

Renner said the current status of the firehouse is that Thorn Township owns a one-half undivided interest in the property. The village owns the other half. He said the village owns the parking lot next to the firehouse. “The sale of the firehouse was never valid or recorded by the county,” he said.

Renner said the village wasn’t able to sell its portion of the onehalf undivided interest without following the process outlined in Ohio Revised Code. In order to legally sell the property, both the village and Thorn Township would need to do so in a coordinated fashion. Or, either party could agree to buy the other out and then proceed from there. “As it stands now, both parties own and are responsible for the property as was established in 1948,” Renner said.

Renner said the village plans to do its part in terms of covering its portion of maintenance, water and sewer, and insurance costs. “We have not yet discussed with the township any future plans for the property,” he said.

Renner said the issue is very complex, and began in 1948, when the village and township decided to combine forces and form a joint fire department for storage of equipment. Previously, Thornville owned the entire lot at the corner of East Columbus and Church streets where the former town hall was located. At the time, council decided to sell one half undivided interest in the rear portion of the lot to the township. “This means for the area where the former firehouse building is, the township owns half and the village owns half,” he said. The village still exclusively owns the area where the old town hall stood.

According to records, a joint fire department board composed of two township trustees and two council members was formed to organize the department. Additionally money was collected through subscription to build the building, meaning both the village and township contributed to building construction.

“Fast forward 60 years and it seems that the dual ownership was forgotten,” Renner said.

Thornville Village Council member Dale Brussee said the whole transaction situation was unfortunate for everyone. “It went down the line of being botched,” he said. Brussee said there were many errors in the paperwork, including the title company having the wrong parcel number. “Thornville was pinched in the middle,” he said.

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