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Oolitic Town Council Votes To Continue Suit To Determine Ownership Of Land

Last updated on Tuesday, July 31, 2012

(OOLITIC) - The Oolitic Town Council voted Monday night to move forward with a law suit to determine who owns the property at the dead end of Walsh Avenue.

The Oolitic Town Council voted Monday night to move forward with a law suit to determine who owns property at the dead end of Walsh Avenue.

Currently the town believes they own the land, but Bob Szemsack thinks his family owns it.

Szemsack says the land has been owned by his wife's family, the Smiths, since the early 1900s

If the town owns the property, businessman, Jack Kellams would like to purchase it, to put up a billboard that would face Ind. 37 from both the north and south sides to advertise his Antique Mall on Main Street in Oolitic.

Numerous residents on Walsh Avenue and Szemsack family members were at the meeting to protest the placement of the billboard.

But not decision can be made about the billboard, or if the town will sell the property, until ownership is determined.

Council President Delvin Nikirk addressed the crowd before public comment was made.

"There is a lot of miss information floating around town," Nikirk says. "We are not trying to take anyone's property. That thought never crossed our minds. We were asked to determine who owns the property, us, the state or Indiana Limestone or one of the residents on Walsh Avenue. I want this to be a civil meeting, no arguing or fussing about the issue. In no way, shape or form did we ever intend to take someone property. We are just trying to determine who owns it."

But Szemsack says he is upset he received paperwork suing his family.

City Attorney Nathan Nikirk told the group that in order to get a clear title, a quite title lawsuit is filed and adjoining property owners are notified by the court. That paperwork, states that the town is sueing the residents, but it is just part of the process to determine ownership.

The courts will now determine who owns the land.

Nathan Nikirk told the group that the town of Oolitic was given the land when the highway was built, but the state failed to properly deed the property to the town.

"My question to the town council is why now after 58 years are you trying to determine this," Szemsack asked.

Delvin Nikirk responded by saying it is an issue that the town must clear up.

Kellams says he doesn't want to upset people, but he is a businessman and wants to advertise his business.

"I have spent millions of dollars on the Antique Mall and renovating the downtown area," Kellams says. "I built the Antique Mall in 2010 and have used every avenue to advertise the business, the radio, newspaper, magazines, and none have helped. I have lost money every year since I have opened the Antique Mall."

Kellams stressed the billboard would not only benefit his business but the museum located inside.

"Robert C. Mitchell has a collection of Oolitic memorabilia that use to be showcased in the old high school. Now those items are in a special area in the Antique Mall. Visitors can see the collection 7 days a week free of charge."

In other business the council:

*Passed resolutions for pay raises for the town marshal and deputy marshal, the utility clerk, and the street employees.

* Passed a resolution to offer the fire department $30,000 in 2013. This will allow the fire department to create a budget. The town will contract with the department to provide fire and emergency services to the residents of Oolitic.

* Adopted a new safety manual for town employees. Employees will take training and then will be required to pass written exams on the courses.

* Approved the use of Town Hall for a polling place in the fall election.

* Approved closing Lafayette Avenue Saturday from 3 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. for the Oolitic Baptist Church block party.

* Asked Deputy Marshal Bill Allen to check property on Hoosier and Walsh avenues that is littered with junk car parts. He will report back to the council.

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