Last day (copy)

As he prepares to vacate Gruber's Automotive in February,  John Gruber talks with Columbia County Sheriff Dennis Richards, far right, and Chief Deputy Darrel Kuhl. The site of Gruber's business, at East Edgewater and Adams streets, is now part of the Columbia County Administration Building's parking lot.


When the people of Portage last saw John Gruber, about mid-year, he was planning to use $50,000 of his $250,000 settlement from Columbia County to start a new auto repair business in the Adams-Friendship area.

He did not go quietly.

In December 2016, Dodge County Circuit Court Judge Brian Pfitzinger gave Gruber 30 days to vacate Gruber’s Automotive, 208 E. Edgewater St., to make way for a parking lot serving the new Columbia County Administration Building. Gruber had fought the county’s eminent domain taking of the business he had owned since 1974, contending that the Condemnation Commission’s award for the property, $140,000, was not enough to pay for relocation.

Gruber not only got a reprieve until February; he also got more money.

In a settlement with Columbia County, the payment was sweetened to $200,000, and another $50,000 was added for moving expenses.

Most of what Gruber collected, however, was ordered to be turned over to developer Richard Lynn, after retired Judge James Evenson ruled that Gruber owed, as of April, about $156,000 in principal and interest on a pair of $65,000 mortgages from Lynn.

Gruber vacated the business on Feb. 15, and at the end of March, the walls came down.

Follow Lyn Jerde on Twitter @LynJerde