Wellman council defeats public referendum on cable issue

Posted 8/5/99

With a 2-2 deadlock vote Monday night, the Wellman City Council turned down an option to hold a pu…

By Mark Adkins

With a 2-2 deadlock vote Monday night, the Wellman City Council turned down …

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Wellman council defeats public referendum on cable issue


With a 2-2 deadlock vote Monday night, the Wellman City Council turned down an option to hold a pu…

By Mark Adkins

With a 2-2 deadlock vote Monday night, the Wellman City Council turned down an option to hold a public referendum vote on the issue of the cable franchise in the city.

The decision to turn down the public referendum swirled around debate on whether the city can afford to buy the cable franchise. Municipal and City Management Services’ representative Pat Callahan, working on the council’s behalf in relation to the cable issue, also told the council that Triax Midwest had made another counterproposal.

“The counterproposal Triax Midwest made conceded everything the council wanted,” Callahan said. “They have agreed to complete a system upgrade within two years and have indicated they may start the upgrade even earlier.

“Their counterproposal is the best franchise I have ever gotten from them,” he added.

Even with news of the counterproposal from Triax Midwest, the council still appeared on the verge of a public referendum. J. Carl Yoder and Max Lewis each agreed on a question about whether the city should own the cable franchise or not for the public referendum.

However, the 2-2 vote with council member Murval Weidlein abstaining, killed the proposal from Lewis and Yoder.

“I don’t think the city can afford to buy the cable franchise,” council member Jelene McCain said. “We haven’t received anything from Wellman Telephone Company in writing that says they are willing to take over the franchise, either.”

“I think we need to educate the public on the issue first before having a referendum,” council member Mike Slagle said.

The council instructed city clerk Donna Wade and Callahan to compile a public opinion survey on the cable issue to be placed in the upcoming utility bills.

More Activities Complex concerns

Members of the Wellman Area Foundation came to the council with more concerns Monday night.

The main area of the concerns came from the fact that an informational town meeting on the Activities Complex issue had been canceled.

“Steve Rohrbach (the project architect) told me that it wouldn’t be a good idea to go into an informational meeting without having an idea of where the money to fund the project was coming from,” Mayor Wilbur Swartzendruber told the members of the Foundation.

“I am very confused then,” Foundation member Mallory Hinz said. “We were told by one of the council members at our last meeting that there were plenty of TIFF funds available for our project, even if we wanted to add on.”

When Lewis pointed out that TIFF funds will be used to upgrade the city’s wastewater treatment plant, Foundation member Barb Aldeman commented “I thought the sewer project was going to be paid for with bonds.”

Lewis, who admitted to the Foundation members that he should have qualified his remarks at their meeting, said that “those funds are available, but it would be up to us with a vote about where we will use them.”

“Yes, we will be paying for the wastewater treatment plant with some bonds, thereby freeing up some TIFF funds,” he said. “However, the use of TIFF funds is difficult to understand.”

Wade added that the general obligation funds will be used to pay for the installation of utility lines in Deer Meadow Phase II.

“We will be trading debt for debt though,” she said. “With the bonds going for the utility lines, the remaining TIFF funds will be used for the wastewater treatment plant.

“There still could be some TIFF funding left after that point but it is hard to project,” she added. “We do have limits on what we want to use though. We don’t want to go into debt too much more.”

“The money would have been there if the council wouldn’t keep stopping and adding things for its usage,” Foundation spokesperson Allen Leichty said. “You are in the position to make a decision. Either tell us no tonight or make up your mind to go forward with the project. You can’t keep throwing things at us each week and delaying this thing.”

Swartzendruber and Leichty got into a verbal tussle during the discussion. After the mayor asked what the Foundation would do if they were on the other side of the table and commenting “things might work later on down the road when I’m not mayor, have you thought about that?”, Leichty came back with “If this council had any kind of backbone behind it and would make a decision, we wouldn’t be sitting here during the wee hours of the night and getting mad at each other.”

In closing the discussion, the informational town meeting idea was brought back. Swartzendruber told the Foundation that the council was going to be holding a work session to make decisions regarding the Activities Complex and also to set a firm date for the meeting. The work session is slated for Monday, August 9.

Action items

In action items at Monday’s meeting, the council:

• approved a Class C beer permit for R&A Conoco.

• tabled a decision on whether or not to buy a new generator for the water plant from Alliant Utilities until the August 16 meeting so the council could look into other options.

• adopted Resolution 99-14 dealing with the upcoming Washington County Local Option Sales Tax vote after hearing a presentation by safety center committee member Harvey Holden. The council decided to have funds coming to town from the tax be used for infrastructure improvements.

• adopted Resolutions 99-15 and 99-16 and approved an application from Robert and Ann Wesner dealing with hook-up to city sewer services.

• adopted resolution 99-17 dealing with submitting an application for a REAP grant for the walking trail in the North Park.

• adopted Resolution 99-18 certifying delinquent utility bills to the county treasurer.

• approved placing Donna Harmon on the library board.