Commissioners hire lawyer to fight annexation | News, Sports, Jobs
WARREN — Trumbull County Commissioners voted Wednesday to ask the Court of Common Pleas to appoint attorney Robert Burkey of Warren as the county’s legal representative during the proposed annexation of more than 31 acres of Howland and Howland townships. Vienna in the city of Niles.
Howland also appointed a lawyer, Alfred E. Schrader of the Akron law firm Roderick Linton Belfance LLP on Wednesday, to represent the townships of Howland and Vienna. The legal costs will be divided equally between the cantons.
A public hearing on annexation is set for 11:30 a.m. on Dec. 7 in the Commissioners’ Hearing Room on the fifth floor of the County Administration Building.
Jeffrey and Mary Ann Heston own one of seven parcels proposed for annexation. The other six are owned by Bagnoli Irpino LLC, which is owned by Niles Police Captain James Villecco, according to the Ohio Secretary of State’s office. The Hestons and Bagnoli Irpinos are represented by solicitor Nils Peter Johnson of Canfield.
The plots are near a subdivision inside the city near Niles Vienna Road. If annexed, the boundaries of the Nile would extend to National Road 11. Of the 31.3 acres, 11.2 acres are in Vienna and 20.1 acres in Howland, according to the annexation petition.
Township officials from both entities said they were against annexation because it would take taxpayers’ money out of the townships, thereby placing a burden on the remaining residents.
The county commissioners will have to decide whether the benefit to the annexed properties outweighs the detriment to the 18 properties that remain in townships within half a mile of the annexed property. Ohio law says the commissioners must decide within 30 days of the hearing.
Prior to the unanimous vote on Burkey, Commissioner Niki Frenchko proposed that County Engineer Randy Smith be added to Burkey’s hiring authority to save county taxpayers money.
“You know we’re going to deal with an item on the agenda, hiring a lawyer for the engineer,” Frenchko told his colleagues on the board. The motion, however, died for lack of a second.
Commissioners Frank Fuda and Mauro Cantalamessa said Burkey should be consulted first to see if he would have a conflict of interest in representing Smith.
Prior to the meeting, Smith had emailed the three commissioners asking his office to join the performance.
Fuda said taking the time to seek a response from Burkey as to whether he would be willing to represent the engineer would not be prudent due to the time required to prepare for the hearing, which Fuda said would not be no space.
The prosecutor’s office usually assists the county council in matters such as annexations, but he told commissioners a few weeks ago that the office faced a conflict of interest because it represented multiple parties involved.
Burkey would be paid a rate of $200 an hour.
Frenchko said she felt comfortable with Burkey and also with Schrader.
Howland administrator Matthew Vansuch said Schrader had been involved in annexations before and that such experience was rare because annexations did not happen often.
Schrader also briefly served as legal director for the Village of Newton Falls from October 2021 until mid-March of this year.
On Tuesday, the directors of Weathersfield unanimously approved a resolution to oppose “this and all annexations.” Part of the township, as well as Liberty, is within a half-mile radius of properties proposed for annexation that commissioners will need to consider in the decision-making process.
Howland and Vienna trustees held a joint meeting last week, where each council also approved a resolution formally opposing annexation. All three resolutions must be filed with the commissioners.
On Monday, Niles approved a resolution setting out the services the city intends to provide landowners if their plots become part of the city. Niles would provide police, fire, utilities and zoning. The annexation process, according to the resolution, is estimated around June 1, 2023.
The city could eventually also provide water and sewer services. He also agreed to pay for any maintenance of any streets or highways that became part of Niles following the annexation.