Could it be classic Milton Berle stand up comedy?
Or perhaps a Shakespearean drama play?
Or maybe even a 21st Century intervention to save a lost soul?
No, unfortunately it was just another biweekly episode of the New Albany Common Council. But be not dismayed for it contained elements of all the above.
Shortly after 6:40 PM the comedy began as Deputy Mayor Carl Malysz became the latest member in good standing of the coveted and ever growing Ejaculattee Club for daring to enter the sacred chambers during an Executive Session of the Common Council.
It took CM President Coffey less than 15 seconds to inform Mr. Malysz of his evil ways and sent him packing. The crowd in the hall (Mark & I) went wild and Cassidy reluctantly caught the evening’s refreshment bill as he lost the pool.
The truly positive report of the night was given by Ohio River Greenway Project Coordinator Shaunna Graf during the 7PM workshop.
Among other things she stated that Clarksville has laid the much of the groundwork and has the funds in hand to complete the connection across Silver Creek to the Floyd County line via the old Penn Central Bridge thru Loop Island.
She all but promised that connection will be completed by lat 2011 if not sooner which would result in one being able to go from the river front all the way to Jeff Boat either on foot or bicycle.
She warned however that the trail on the New Albany would probably still be au-natural as there remained work to be done with various State & Federal Agencies as well as additional funding to hook our end said bridge with our riverfront. But the trail would be passable at least for the hearty travels among us.
When asked about progress with the K & I opening up, both she and Scott Wood reported that their Louisville counterpart was leading the charge and that it was still a high priority on Mayor Abramson’s to get done list.
Scott said that he understood a letter of intent had been sent to the railroad referencing conversations that Louisville was having with various Federal Agencies on the matter.
It seems that the railroads response was that if anyone set foot on said bridge they would either be arrested by the rail police or summarily shot if not both. There was no indication of which order the aforementioned would happen however.
My immediate read-neck reaction in these times of terrorists and homeland security issues was that railroad police or not, if any fool had the intestinal fortitude to take a shot at a federal official, I wish him the best of luck!
So on to the meat of the meeting!
The first person to take the podium during Communications from the Public was (surprise-surprise) the Operations Director of ROCK.
Mr. Wickens was out of town on another matter and I speculated that perhaps he was sharing dinner & entertainment with an ACLU member in an attempt to find a way to combine their influence.
At any rate she reiterated the negative affects on communities of such establishments, complemented the Council for its bravado in addressing this subject matter, and reassured all that ROCK had our backs covered as we move forward.
She was followed by one of the operators of the cabaret in question. He warned the Council they were on a very slippery slope with the legalities of this measure and implored them not to set the city up for a long expensive legal battle by passing the proposal. He continued that all of his employees were set to file individual suits against the City on 1st amendment grounds if nesessary.
I must apologize for not catching the names of either of the speakers mentioned.
As for Communications from City Officials & the Mayor, Doug England was absent and Carl apparently took his cue from the earlier incident chose to remain silent for the evening.
There followed a bit of confusion about some pending appointments and after a flurry of activity at the head table that issue got put off to a later day.
R-09-02 which addressed a tax abatement for Specialty Earth Sciences, LLC received a 7-0 affirmative vote with little ado. Oh,I forgot to mention that CM Zurschmeide was also absent last evening.
R-09-03 was tabled by CM Gahan for the time being. It concerned ordinance codification issues that he and his committee had not completed their research on and he requested more time to do so.
R-09-04 was an Additional Appropriation resolution authorizing the parks department to use insurance monies already in hand for repairs of storm damage to city park amenities. It also passed 7-0.
Ms Benedetti then chose to table A-09-01 which would have required the Sewer Board & Storm water Board to move their meeting times to evenings as opposed to the current 10AM time slot. The ordinance had been prompted by a public outcry from her constituents as they could not get to the daytime meetings and thus felt left out of the process.
However, CM Benedetti apparently had a change of heart and pulled it from the agenda. She stated that at this point she was unsure whether or not it would be reintroduced at a later date.
CM President Coffey stated that even so, she and the Council as a whole was to be commended for hearing the voices of the people. (A disclaimer-that’s a paraphrase)
Then it got interesting. CM Gahan introduced A-09-01. That would be controversial salary amendment ordinance for the Sewer billing personnel.
The 2nd reading vote was called for without preamble and was voted down.
The 3rd reading was about to proceed when Jeff Gahan interrupted to ask if any discussion of the matter was allowable. CM Coffey answered in the affirmative and CM Gahan proceeded to say that his understanding was these raises had already been approved and put in effect by the Administration without Council approval.
Someone asked how many people received raises and we were informed that three did. Mrs. Dickey got $3K, Ms.Walsh $7K, and Mr. Thompson of the street department received $8K annually.
This sparked a flurry of activity around the table. When asked from whence the monies came the response by Sewer Board President Ron Carrol was the funds came out of Storm Water coiffures.
When asked if these raises were retro to January of this year, Ron said yes!
CM Price almost immediately offered that the Storm Water Utility obviously has an excess of funds at its disposal and proposed that maybe a rate cut for that utility was in order!
Council Attorney Robison then said that when the discussion had originally come up as to whether or not the Sewer Utility could act independently of council approval he had asked for time to research the subject.
He did so and submitted to the administration a letter stating that in his legal opinion the matter did in fact have to be voted in by said council. He was then informed that it was a done deal and the retro checks were being processed.
He requested permission from the council to sit down with City Attorney Gibson to discuss it at length. He was granted it.
CM President Coffey stated that although there had been much said about working together, this was yet another example of some acting independently regardless, and the council was going to have to look further into the matter.
We then moved on to the real hot-button issue of the night which was the Adult Cabaret ordinance. It passed 2nd reading 7-0 but the third reading was postponed to give the Council’s Committee time to try to work out an agreement with the Cabaret owners that would be palatable to all parties.
And along those lines, CM Coffey had earlier encouraged Planning & Zoning Director Scott Wood to move with haste to define a Zoning designation for adult entertainment facilities. He stated he would be glad to buy could not finalize such until the Council acted upon the Ordinance before it.
That ending the official business of the evening, John Mattingly rose to implore the Council not to proceed to the point of this thing going to court. He said he had no desire to get involved in a costly legal battle and would hate for the city to do so as well.
However, he continued, “I and my partners have spent a significant amount of money on this project and we are not willing to just walk away from it.”
He was followed by an encore appearance by the ROCK representative wherein she once again complimented the Council for their due diligence and reassured all in the room that her organization was there to help in any way it can.
With that the meeting was adjourned and a glance at the clock read 8:10PM. My, that went quick!
Our very own Mark Cassidy approached the Rock rep and asked her if offering to help the city included raising funds to pay legal costs. She very carefully answered that in the past her organization had indeed assisted other municipalities find such and could possibly be happy to do so here as well if needed.
Mark was very clear that she refrained from stating exactly what that “assistance” entailed!
Me, I beat feet for Studios to find both bartenders standing at the end of the bar awaiting my arrival. One had a Sierra Nevada Pale Ale in hand and the other, holding a room temperature glass!
And you scofflaws say New Albany has nothing to offer!!