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Farmer, Adams Co. officials seek solution for damaged property

Reeder farmer David Schoeder said his family's pile of petrified wood was taken from his land while Adams County Highway Shop workers installed culverts nearby in the fall. The Schoeders claim the rocks, shown here in this undated photo after they were returned, were damaged and not put back in their original spot.

Adams County officials and a Reeder farmer have found themselves between a rock and a hard place regarding petrified wood taken from the farmer's family farm.

"We've spent 30 years picking every piece of petrified wood and putting it in a pile that was clearly defined as petrified wood," David Schoeder said. "Rather than going and finding rocks, they just came in and scooped up all our beautiful petrified wood and destroyed it, and they are claiming no responsibility."

The Adams County Highway Shop workers were putting culverts in Darling Springs Township about 25 miles northwest of Hettinger in the fall when they took the petrified wood from the Schoeder land to prevent the road from washing out.

"I was in the house," Kaye Schoeder said. "They could have come and ask me."

The workers put the rocks back where they were lying against the road a week after they were moved, Highway Superintendent Theo Schalesky said. He knew the rocks belonged to the Schoeders, and they never should have been taken, he said.

The county has also sent a letter of apology to the Schoeders for using the rocks, Adams County State's Attorney Aaron Roseland said. No citations for trespassing have been issued.

David Schoeder claims that the workers scooped up the rocks and dumped them back on their land, causing them to break into pieces. He added they didn't put them back where they were supposed to and that they didn't get all it all back.

"We're not happy where we are at," he said. "We need to find somebody to value them, but it is hard to value them when they have been destroyed."

David Schoeder informed the Adams County commissioners of the damages, Roseland said. Demands have been made by David Schoeder, but it is "premature that there is going to be anything legally happening," Roseland said.

"While Adams County may have been in the wrong in removing the rock, we should have asked permission. We acknowledge that fact," the state's attorney said.

Roseland believes that there were no damages to the rocks but has invited David Schoeder to prove otherwise. He must provide the value of the rocks before and after.

"The ball is kind of in his court," Roseland said. "If we can agree on compensable damages, then it would be my estimate that Adams County should pay for those compensable damages, but I question whether that is going to be realistic given to the nature of the incident."

The Schoeders and Roseland are having discussions to come up with a solution for the loss, David Schoeder said. The rocks cannot be restored, but he hopes his family will be compensated for the damages.

"It's like a lifetime of work destroyed," David Schoeder said. "There is no way we can restore them to their prior condition. We can't replace them."