Wellman Mayor Wilbur Swartzendruber stunned the Wellman City Council and others in attendance Monday night, December 20, by vetoing the plans and specifications for the North Park Activities …
Wellman Mayor Wilbur Swartzendruber stunned the Wellman City Council and others in attendance Monday night, December 20, by vetoing the plans and specifications for the North Park Activities Complex.
After architect Steve Rohrbach of Iowa City presented several options and recommendations to build the complex within the $785,800 project budget, the Wellman council voted 3-2 (Max Lewis and Carl Yoder voting No) to adopt a resolution to accept the plans and specifications for the project.
Mayor Swartzendruber, citing city code for authorization, immediately vetoed the council’s action. It would have taken a two-thirds majority vote by the council to over-ride his veto. See separate box on the reasons for Swartzendruber’s action.
Swartzendruber added that there are so many questions surrounding the project that he felt the new council, sworn in Monday night, should have an opportunity to vote on the project. He noted that bids are good for 30 days so the new council will have until January 13 to decide whether or not to proceed with the project.
Mayor-elect Max Lewis said a new city attorney will be present at the January 3, 2000 meeting so the council can do what is legally correct. He expressed concern that the mayor’s veto could cause legal problems for the city. Both representatives for the Wellman Area Foundation and Rohrbach said they may file claims against the city if the project does not proceed.
“I’m going to have the council vote to put an end to this project controversy once and for all,” Lewis said. “We are going to either proceed (without controversy) or stop the project completely. Whatever we do, it is going to be done under the direction of a lawyer.”
The mayor’s action angered members of the foundation and the architect. “I’m angry,” Rohrbach stressed. “The cost of the project has not changed since we started on March 23, 1999.”
Rohrbach pointed out that in October he had asked the council to either make a commitment to the project or not waste his time or that of the contractors bidding on the project. The council voted to proceed.
Swartzendruber said the activities complex would be very difficult to do when the community is split. He noted despite 286 people unofficially voting no, the council had pushed the project through.
“I don’t have anything against Steve,” he added. “I want to thank him for his work. He did us a lot of good.”
Councilwoman-elect Cindy Slaubaugh complained that the costs seemed to continue to escalate. She added she was in support of the project when it included a swimming pool, but now feels that the building would duplicate facilities already available and the costs of operating would be prohibitive. She charged there was no community support.
Mallory Hinz, representing the foundation, pointed out that more than $285,000 in donations represented community support for the complex.
Rohrbach stressed that the project cost has always been $785,800 and he had just shown the council how they could elect certain alternates that would bring the project in under those cost figures.
Rohrbach presented some alternates for structural changes that would permit either a resilient floor covering ($40,000) or installation of air conditioning and gym equipment.
He pointed out that acceptance of the $720,000 bid from Selzer Werderitsch would give them a functional building. This would include properly marked cement floors for basketball and volleyball in the gym area.
Several people raised concerns about landscaping and parking. Slaubaugh complained that the council had committed $100,000 of the project cost to landscaping. With that taken out, there wouldn’t be enough money to fund the project.
Councilman-elect Pat Curl questioned if cutting back on certain areas to bring the complex in on budget would cause the foundation to lose supporters. He added that defeat of the project would be a loss for the entire city. He urged a compromise be worked out to make the project viable.
Lyle Wade questioned if the telephone company’s donation to the project was legal.
Most of the other agenda items were tabled until the new council’s first meeting on January 3.
The council did vote to purchase a new water salesman and back-flow valve. Mayor-elect Lewis questioned whether the estimated $1,500 cost would cover the control system and if it was a good project, even if it was a service to the rural community.
Lewis asked that the line locator purchase be tabled as well as the parks and recreation board creation, Miller house demolition, and lease for the skating rink.
The council did approve the purchase of three cell phones for city employees and repair of the sidewalk in front of Albion Young’s law office.
Another item deferred to the next council meeting was a decision on the law enforcement contract with Washington County.
Wilbur says thanks
Mayor Swartzendruber thanked the council members for their support and cooperation.
He noted that “life hasn’t been easy” during his tenure as mayor. “I’ve been between a rock and hard place many times.”
“I do appreciate all the support of the community,” he added. “I’ve done the best of my ability (to do things right).”
Max Lewis then presented Mike Slagle (councilman since January 2, 1992) councilwoman Murvel Weidlein (on council since Nov. 10, 1989) and Mayor Swartzendruber (January 1996 to December 31, 1999). He thanked them for their dedicated service and gave them their council name plaques.
City Clerk Donna Wade then swore in new council members Pat Curl, Jim Seward and Cindy Slaubaugh and mayor Max Lewis. All four will assume their new duties January 1, 2000.