WILMINGTON — Concern about a possible “all or nothing” approach on the upcoming Rombach Avenue project has city council members concerned.
Passions were high at Thursday’s Wilmington City Council meeting during continued discussions about the Rombach Avenue Paving Project — particularly with the proposed center medians.
Councilmember Nick Eveland believes the time has come to make a decision, but he is unsure how that decision is going to be made.
“The mayor (John Stanforth) has informed us that the State of Ohio is willing to let that be a city decision,” said Eveland. “But whose decision that is in the city, I’m not quite sure. Is it a unilateral decision of the mayor? Does the council prepare a resolution for it? Do we come together to work together to come to a decision? I’m not really sure.”
Safety/Service Director Brian Shidaker told Eveland and the other council members that sometime in April the council will be asked to approve a resolution from the state. The resolution would authorize the city to accept the funds for the project.
Councilmember Jonathan McKay asked whether or not the approval of the center medians would fall to council. Shidaker indicated it would be up to council, but if they don’t approve of the resolution in April, then the Rombach Avenue project would end then and there.
“I think it is absolutely important that we have a 7-0 vote on this. Because there’s a lot of money coming from the state and federal government,” said Shidaker. “When we look divided on something like this we, as a community, don’t look good toward the state or federal government, eespecially when they’re handing us millions of dollars to fund this project.”
He added that if the council turned down the resolution for funding, it would make grant work more complicated in the future.
Councilmember Matt Purkey asked if the city administration is prepared to have several different ideas as to what the project looks like.
“If it’s just going to be ‘This is how we’re going to do it. Take it or leave it’ and you put it to a council who wants to leave it or take it … why are we having all this?” said Purkey. “If we’re having these discussions to let people voice their opinion but we don’t really have a say in all this process between now and then, I’m confused as to why this is being dragged out like this.”
He hopes to see multiple options from the administration. But if it’s a “take it or leave it” option with the current plan, he believes it will be a bad idea.
Councilmember Bill Liermann opposes the idea of approving the plan but removing the center medians portion later on.
“I love the project, I like the new lights coming in … I like the resurfacing,” said Liermann, reiterating his thoughts. “But you’ve got to convince me the medians are needed. “
Liermann believes there needs to be further discussions on why or why not the center medians should be in place.
He told officials he would vote against the resolution if medians were included in the plan.
Eveland also would vote against for the same reason. Like Liermann, he approves of many of the project’s ideas but had great concern over the medians.
Accessibility to local businesses, safety, and public opinion are the three reasons Eveland have for opposing the medians.
“I think the project is worth it,” said Eveland. “As long as the medians are not included.”
He recommended eliminating them from the project, and if they are needed later, they can be placed later.
Shidaker believes a compromise can be made with the project. He believes the plan can include medians in certain locations where they might be needed, instead of having them on a majority of the street.
“I think we need to work with the business owners (on Rombach) and make this work,” said Shidaker. “I think there are places where a median makes sense … there are real safety concerns on Rombach Avenue where a median makes sense.”
He believes an “all or nothing” approach could lead to things being “ugly in the end.”
Councilmember Michael Snarr believes continued discussions need to happen sooner than later before the April vote.
Councilmembers and city officials plan to schedule a workshop to discuss a possible compromise for the project.
Reach John Hamilton at 937-382-2574