The city's right to lease 300 feet of Muskingum River bank for private dock space was called into question during a meeting of Marietta City Council's lands, buildings and parks committee Wednesday.
Dan and Shana Woodford, owners of the Muskingum River Boat Docks located on the east side of the river, about 150 feet downstream of the Washington Street Bridge, believe the riverbank property does not belong to the city.
"I've been working with the state auditor's office, and they can find no deed for this property," Shana Woodford said. "There is no deed."
She said without a deed the city cannot claim ownership of the property which means the riverbank apparently belongs to the state of Ohio.
City law director Paul Bertram III said the Woodfords are right-there is no deed for the property, but the area was designated as "common land" by Marietta's founders, and all such property is controlled by the city.
"There are many areas of common land that the city has no deed for, but common land was to be controlled by the local governing body, which is the city," Bertram explained.
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Marietta City Council's finance, streets and lands, buildings and parks committees will meet at 4 p.m. today in the community building at Lookout Park.
A special council session will follow at 5 p.m. in the same location, followed at 5:30 p.m. by a meeting of the Development Advisory Board.
All council and committee meetings, except executive sessions, are open to the public. More information is available at www.mariettaoh.net
He also noted that in 1971 the state obtained a deed for adjoining property through a Marietta City Council ordinance that allowed construction of the Ohio River Museum.
"That deed contains a remission clause that says if the land ceases to be used as a museum, the property would go back to the city of Marietta," Bertram said.
Shana Woodford said without an original deed the city still could not prove that it owned the land in the first place.
The Woodfords have been paying the city $1,500 a year to lease the riverbank where their docks are located. They rent the dock space to area boaters.
Their most recent five-year lease with the city expired Jan. 1 of this year. That lease was transferred from former docks owner Jim Wiblin to the Woodfords when they purchased the facilities in 2009.
The property ownership became an issue earlier this year after J.J. Sands, owner of the Valley Gem Sternwheeler excursion business, asked city council to lease him extra space along the riverbank where he could moor the sternwheeler and the Miss Lily barge.
Sands said he planned to connect the two vessels on occasion in order to carry more passengers during special excursion events, and would need additional mooring space.
But the Valley Gem and Miss Lily are currently moored just upstream of the Woodford's docks, and the area Sands wished to lease would take up more than half of that dock space.
In May of this year Councilman Harley Noland, D-at large, who chairs the lands, buildings and parks committee, proposed the city develop a new lease for the riverbank property and rent the space to the highest bidder.
Before a lease could be drawn up, the property had to be surveyed to determine the exact location and boundaries of the area to be leased, according to Wayne Rinehart, project manager with the city engineering department.
On Wednesday Bertram presented the committee with a draft copy of the area that was surveyed by BHG Surveying of Vienna, W.Va.
The drawing indicated the areas currently occupied by the Woodford's docks and the Valley Gem as Lease Area 1 and Lease Area 2, respectively. Both the Woodfords and Sands agreed the drawing was a reasonable depiction of the current properties.
Bertram asked for the committee's permission to use the drawing to develop a lease document for both areas.
The committee members agreed, noting that it would take more than two months to adopt the necessary legislation for the leases to go out for bids, which would also provide plenty of time for the property ownership debate to be settled.
"I don't want to see either business hurt by this," said Councilman Tom Vukovic, D-4th Ward. "It would be best to come up with a solution to benefit both parties."
In other business Wednesday, city engineer Joe Tucker announced bids to re-roof the National Guard Armory building came in too high and would have to be re-bid.
"Three bids were received for the roof repairs, but all three were higher than the 10 percent allowed over the engineer's estimate," he said. "We have no choice but to go back out for bids again."
Tucker said the original engineer's estimate was $568,000, but the apparent low bid on the project was $772,000.
He said the high bids were probably due to misunderstanding about some lead and asbestos abatement that were included in the contract.
Tucker said the engineer's estimate has been adjusted to $644,000 and new bids would be taken until Nov. 9.