In a shop at the corner Edgewater and Adams streets, John Gruber is working to repair cars.
Just outside his door, construction crews are working to build a new Columbia County Administration Building and Health and Human Services Building. In order to finish that project, Gruber Automotive must move.
“I’m the last out of 14,” said Gruber, referencing the other 13 owners who reached agreements to sell their property to Columbia County.
When Gruber and Columbia County officials could not come to an agreement to purchase his property, the county utilized eminent domain to acquire the land. An appraisal done on the property for the county showed the value at $110,000.
“We obtained an appraisal of the property. We offered Mr. Gruber the opportunity to obtain his own appraisal at our expense. He didn’t do so,” said Mark Hazelbaker, an attorney representing Columbia County.
On Aug. 8, the county’s Condemnation Commission awarded Gruber $140,000. In addition Gruber would receive money to cover moving costs.
“That doesn’t buy a building and that doesn’t get very far,” Gruber said.
He is appealing the ruling before a circuit court. He has until Nov. 7 to show an appraisal to a judge showing his property is worth more than $140,000. Gruber is asking for a jury trial.
“The people want me to fight. With everything going on in the world and the election, it is, like, my time,” Gruber said.
The county wants to take possession of the property so it can complete the government complex, which is scheduled to be done in the summer of 2017.
“We have to move forward. I have sympathy for him but I also have responsibilities to my client. They need the property for the project, which is going to benefit the entire community,” Hazelbaker said.
The one thing both sides agree on is it would be beneficial to reach an agreement on the sale of the property before the case goes before a judge.
“I hope we can come to an agreement. All things being equal, a voluntary agreement is always better than one that is litigated,” Hazelbaker said.
“I think it is in their interest and my interest to be able to settle it,” Gruber said.