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November 14, 2012

Dreyer estate rejects settlement deal with county

Clark council to consider new deal Thursday, as county attorney attempts to convince air board to sue its own lawyer

CLARK COUNTY — The death of a Sellersburg landowner has caused a deal between the deceased’s estate and the county to fall through, and county officials are weighing their options.

On Nov. 8, Clark County Council Attorney Scott Lewis told the council that the estate of Margaret Dreyer had pulled out of a deal stemming from an eminent-domain judgment against the county in December 2011. The county council had agreed to a deal — already signed by the Clark County Commissioners and Dreyer — Oct. 30.

In the agreed order, Dreyer agreed to waive her right to force forfeiture of a 73-acre property and allow the county pay the eminent-domain judgment into escrow while the county pursued an appeal of the judgment, so long as the county was working to secure the money owed to Dreyer. The Clark County Board of Aviation Commissioners had purchased the land for the expansion of a runway at Clark County Regional Airport.

As of Aug. 1, the county owed the Dreyer estate the principal sum of $661,395, plus $162,648 in accrued interest, according to court documents. Additionally, the county owes Dreyer the principal sum of $24,036, plus $3,018 for attorney’s fees, costs and expenses.

But Oct. 20, Dreyer died, and her estate’s personal representatives do not agree to the deal.

“The co-personal representatives have refused to acknowledge that agreement by Ms. Dreyer, which they have the right to do, because that agreement was authorized originally by Ms. Dreyer,” Lewis told the council at the meeting last Wednesday. “... Her heirs, they weren’t a party to that agreement.”

Instead, the Dreyer estate is saying that it wants its money by Dec. 14 or it will invoke its right to force the forfeiture of the property by the county.

“My clients want the matter resolved before we get to the forfeiture date,” said John Mead, attorney to the Dreyer estate.

However, County Attorney Greg Fifer believes the Dreyer estate is trying to get the county to drop its appeal of the judgment, which Fifer believes the county has a good shot of winning.

“They’re trying to bluff us into paying the $900,000 and then walk away, which I don’t think any of us agree is the right thing to do,” Fifer said.

He said he doesn’t think the Dreyers would be able to sell the property to anyone else for as much as they’re getting from the county.

“I think they’ve got a number that they’d be crazy to walk away from,” Fifer said. “I think $865,000 is far and away their best [deal] on that piece of property, for a property that’s 10 feet in a flood plain.”

The county council will meet again Thursday, Nov. 15, to consider a new agreed order — which the council took no action upon Nov. 8 — between the Dreyer estate, the Clark County Commissioners and the County Council in which the county will agree to pay the estate what it is owed by, Dec. 14, the forfeiture date. Fifer is seeking relief in court to allow the payment to be placed into escrow pending the appeal.

Entering into the agreement would allow Auditor Monty Snelling to pursue short-term loans in the amount owed to the county. Currently, the judgment is accruing interest at the rate of $150 per day. Fifer said he believes Snelling should be able to secure a loan with an interest rate of less than 3 percent.

“Trading 8 for 3 [percent] is a good deal if we can get that done,” Fifer said.

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