News and Tribune

Clark County

May 2, 2012

Clark County airport dispute argued in court

Attorneys for property owners, air board address differences over timeliness of paperwork

JEFFERSONVILLE — A payment of $865,000 owed by Clark County was argued in Clark County Circuit Court No. 2 on Wednesday, but no resolution was offered.

The payment is related to a jury trial verdict that set the value of 72 acres of land along Bean Road — which was sought by the Clark Regional Airport for an ongoing project to expand a runway to 7,000 feet — at $865,000. The decision was subsequently upheld by the Indiana Court of Appeals in December.

Clark County entered the suit when John W. Mead, attorney for Margaret Dreyer, the property owner, filed a motion against the county in order to receive the remaining money owed to his client. The Clark County Board of Aviation Commissioners had already paid Dreyer $203,605 for a portion of the property, leaving a $661,395 remainder.

Clark County Attorney Greg Fifer argued Wednesday that the trial court, which was Clark County Circuit Court No. 1, lacked “subject matter jurisdiction” to hear the case. He explained that the court should not have heard the case because a written exception to the appraisals was not filed within 20 days by Dreyer. He continued that the first appraisal the Dreyers received was on May 7, 2009, by certified mail — which is a requirement under state statute.

“We think the date exceptions could have been filed is no later than May 27 [2009],” Fifer said.

The exception was not filed by Mead until July 7, 2009, according to Clark County Court records.

“This case was totally over at that point,” Fifer said.

But the county did not enter the legal proceedings until the certified judgment was entered to claim the $661,395.

Clark County Circuit Court No. 2 Judge Jerry Jacobi questioned the timing of the county raising the issue that the original exception was not timely and asked why the county had not intervened in the suit earlier.

“At what point is it too late?” he asked Fifer.

Fifer argued that under state law, it’s never too late to raise the question of whether or not the court had jurisdiction to hear the case.

“I won’t rule until you find such a case,” Jacobi said, in response to Fifer.

But Mead argued that the Dreyers objected to the appraisal in March 2009, before the official document was ever filed.

“That ... constitutes a valid exception,” he said.

In addition, Mead argued that the first appraisal was set aside by Clark County Circuit Court No. 1 Judge Dan Moore, a second appraisal was ordered in September and a certified letter of that appraisal amount was never sent to the Dreyers.

“The time period never began to run,” he said.

Mead added that the county was not timely in entering the suit.

“The jurisdictional question had to be filed at the earliest opportunity, which would’ve been in 2009,” he said. “It’s not when Mr. Fifer and the county finds out it has a judgment entered against it for $865,000.”

In addition to the outstanding remainder from the jury verdict, Mead is seeking to recover attorney’s fees and interest on the payment owed.

Jacobi allowed the attorneys 10 days to file additional submittals before issuing a ruling.

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