Sunday, January 15, 2012

Money from air board verdict sought. Attorney filing paperwork to claim payment owed

JEFFERSONVILLE — An appeals case lost by the Clark County Board of Aviation Commissioners may cost the county sooner, rather than later.

Attorney John W. Mead said he will file a request for a certified judgment in order for his client to get paid for a jury verdict that totaled $865,000.

“I’m going to ask the judge to certify the judgment against the air board as a judgment against the county,” he said.

Mead said he planned to file the paperwork Friday.

The Clark County Board of Aviation Commissioners lost an appeal in mid-December that ordered the board to pay $865,000 to property owner Margaret Dreyer after her land was seized through eminent domain. Dreyer’s property lies at the end of a proposed 7,000-foot runway expansion at Clark County Regional Airport. The air board needed to acquire the 72-acre parcel in order to complete the runway expansion and allow for the relocation of Bean Road.

But Mead said that the air board only needed to acquire a portion of his client’s property.

“The airport only needed a small piece of this ground to relocate this road,” he said. “For whatever reason, they wanted the whole parcel.”

Clark County Air Board Attorney Jack Vissing said while the air board could have left a portion of the property unclaimed, it was swamp land and it would have left the Dreyer’s with an unmarketable remnant.

“That was the thought behind taking the last section,” he said. “The FAA wanted it, too.”

Vissing added the Federal Aviation Administration — which has granted $11 million to the airport for the runway expansion — advised the air board to take the whole property.

However, the disparity over taking the property was that an appraisal conducted on behalf of the air board failed to use the “highest and best use” of the property. Instead of valuing the property as light industrial, the land was appraised as agricultural property and offered a substantially lower dollar figure.

The difference in the appraised amounts — one for the air board and another on behalf of the Dreyers — equaled nearly $890,000.

A jury returned a verdict that valued the property at $865,000.

According to the air board, more than $200,000 was available to go toward the judgment for the case, but following the court ruling, the county will have to find a way to pay more than $600,000 for taking the property. In addition, the board must pay the Dreyers’ attorney fees totaling $24,035, and interest of up to $194 per day.

By certifying the jury verdict to a judgment against the county, it will allow Mead to collect the money owed to his client.

“I’m going to file a plain old mandate action,” he said.

In order to cover the costs for the mandate, the county could issue its own mandate judgment above the tax levy, bond for the funding or sell county property to raise the funds necessary to cover the payment.

The air board would not be on the hook for the payment because it operates as a county department, and therefore the county is responsible for covering the payment. Also, the 2012 budget for the air board, which was lowered from $430,000 to $355,000 at Monday’s council meeting, is not enough to cover the payment.

One other possible source of funds, which also were discussed during Monday’s council meeting, was a year-end surplus of $1.78 million for the county.

“Maybe they ought to hang on to that,” Mead said. “If they have $1 million sitting in a bank they can use that [to pay the mandate.]”

Clark Regional Airport Manager Melodee McNames said the air board plans on requesting an additional grant from the Federal Aviation Administration to pay for the judgment. She added that they will file a formal letter with the FAA to fund the judgment that totaled $865,000, of which $203,000 has already been paid, leaving a $662,000 request to go to the FAA.

How quickly a funding source for the mandate is identified may ultimately determined the amount that is paid for taking the property. Mead said that for each day the judgment is accruing 8 percent interest, so the more time that passes the more the judgment will cost the county.

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