HUBER HEIGHTS — A plan to hang colorful banners to welcome visitors to Hubert Heights had some members of council seeing red at Monday night’s council meeting.
Council has discussed a street banner program for the city which would entail hanging seasonal banners on utility poles at major entrances to the city. Council most recently discussed the program last week’s work session.
Council Member Janell Smith has been the leading advocate for the plan. She was unable to attend the work session but expected the banner program to appear on Monday night’s council meeting agenda to receive supplemental funding at a cost of around $17,500. When it didn’t appear on the agenda, she asked why not.
“We haven’t had a public meeting since Tuesday, and since Tuesday when everybody agreed this would be part of the supplementals to today, something has changed,” she said. “I’d like somebody to explain that to me, please.”
Council Member Ed Lyons explained the project initially was estimated at $5,000, which could come out of the city budget. But he was uncertain about where the $17,500 would come from. Lyons said that while talking with City Manager Rob Schommer later in the week, he understood that the $17,500 could possibly come out of the budget without a special appropriation., which meant it would not have had to appear on Monday’s agenda. Schommer said the city staff was trying to get a more solid estimate, especially since the number of poles involved was still being determined.
Smith confronted Lyons with comments made in a phone conversation she had with him on Thursday, saying he had talked to other council members about the appropriation.
“You told me straight up Mr. Lyons that I would not have the votes, that if I pushed this you guys would make sure that you would separate the appropriation in the supplementals, and you guys would vote it down,” she said. “I don’t respond well to threats.”
“Nothing I did in any shape or form, did I intend to be a threat,” Lyons said. He said he was concerned about the $17,500 not being in the budget and that council members might have second thoughts on the project if it would cause the budget to be not balanced but did not call the other council members to lobby against the project.
Mayor Tom McMasters eventually served as a referee and attempted to find a way to move the project forward, since all the council members appeared to still be in favor of the project.
Bus Smith wasn’t done.
“So is it appropriate that at this time I could ask that every question that has been asked be answered by staff by the next work session meeting,” she said. “And mayor, I would just like to say is this: when I watched the meeting and I spoke to our clerk of council we all had an understanding of what we thought was supposed to happen and the fact that phone calls were made and it didn’t make it to the supplementals after those phone calls were made. I just want to say for the record that did happen and I’m not happy with this. When I got elected, I got elected so that I wouldn’t be doing back-door politicking, and I want this to stop and I want it to stop right now.”
Lyons responded by saying, “I would completely agree with the back door political jargon, things like that, but my position, and certainly I could be wrong, but my position is there was never a definitive answer to put this on the agenda tonight for an appropriation because I did not want to speak for Mr. Schommer.”
By this time, Schommer was ready to speak for himself.
“I’d like to address the allegation that for four months questions have gone unanswered,” he said, referring to a comment by Smith. “I’d like to know what questions, number one. And number two, as Mrs. Smith just indicated, Mrs. Blankenship asked at the previous work session and at the next one, we had the information on the costs, that’s why that was provided.”
This started another round of discussions that eventually led to the mayor asking for a specific list of questions that still needed to be answered and Council Member Tyler Starline asking for practical steps as to what do next.
The mayor asked for a firm cost estimate by the next meeting. Since all council members reiterated their support for the project, that means the banners could be flying over Huber Heights in the not too distant future.
Reach Dave Lindeman at 937-684-8983 or on Twitter @HH_Courier.