GALLIPOLIS — The result of Gallipolis City Commission’s Tuesday meeting was far from “business as usual” as concerns about the city’s financial future soon turned into the eventual voting down of a proposed splash pad in Gallipolis City Park by three commissioners, with one voting for the pad’s installation.
Gallipolis City Commissioners currently consists of President Tony Gallagher, Roger Brandeberry, Matt Johnson, Mike Fulks and Steven Wallis. Brandeberry was not present for the Tuesday meeting. The meeting was predominantly meant to center on the passage of the city’s upcoming 2017 budget and concerns with tight expenditures and the upcoming one percent income tax issue. The meeting would eventually boil to a point with community members discussing controversy with a splash pad meant to attract consumers to the Gallipolis downtown area.
City Manager Gene Greene brought up the issue of the splash pad stating that both the Gallipolis Park Advisory and Historical Boards voted no to adding the splash pad to the City Park. He suggested a vote be taken the night of the meeting.
Downtown Revitalization Project members said the creation of the pad was to draw more families and business to the downtown area and City Park. The DRP proposed colored lights with the pad to add to the aesthetic of the pad’s timed water displays. Plans say the pad would be concrete, roughly three inches thick and 30-feet by 30-feet in its dimensions. To tie into the historical aspects of City Park, DRP members proposed incorporating words and imagery depicting notable members and events of Gallipolis around the pad’s outer edge. Benches would be placed near the pad. Proposed operating hours and times for the pad would been from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. in the months of June, July and August. The pad would run on a timer with a start button so as to not run too long. The pad would launch fountains of water from the ground for members of the public to enjoy.
“The splash pad, ” said Greene. “That’s a subject that has split the city. I’ve had a couple in my office this morning with concerns about it. The park board voted … Good idea, not the right place. Also, it’s been in front of the historical board, that was a no vote. Both of them have said the same thing. It’s a good idea just not in our park. With that being said, my feeling is the commission needs to put this thing to bed. Either vote yes or no on it.”
The Gallipolis Park Advisory Board had a previous pair of meetings over the splash pad issue due to various members not being able to commit to the meeting times. Ultimately, quorums voted to advise to not have a pad as well as the historical advisory board voting in similar fashion.
Commissioner Matt Johnson said he felt the commission needed to hold onto the issue to discuss it at greater length in a larger venue due to interest in the subject with the public and have all five members of the commission present to vote. DRP member Jim Wiseman had previously voiced similar concerns when introducing the pad idea with wanting to have a larger meeting area. Johnson expressed concern that he felt more of the public needed to express their concerns with the issue of the pad being placed in the park beyond just the boards. Johnson said he did not wish to slight the intent of the boards but gather the “full of the community” to discuss the issue at hand.
Johnson said the DRP noted that many of the city’s events start in the City Park as the hub of community activity hence why they wanted to put the pad in the park. A community member in the crowd voiced their opposition against the addition of the pad because the “park is historic.” Johnson countered that the entire town was historic. A crowd member said community members had “fought for years against” putting things in the park because “if not you wouldn’t have a park.”
Johnson said the park had evolved over the years to fit the needs of the community. The community member brought up that two boards voted the issue down. Johnson said he felt the boards acted as “a filter” and sometimes the “filter was plugged” and needed changing.
“So what you want to do is put this off until you can get all your young buddies on the commission?” Said the crowd member in reference to the fall election. She felt Johnson wanted to put the issue off for a year.
One member of the crowd felt the park was suffering from too many events and traffic “every weekend and was not able to get back to its lush grass.”
Johnson voiced that he may not be on the commission barring the results of the coming election, but that he was voicing the concerns of unsung constituents. He noted that a lot of “young” people had decided to run in the upcoming election and “felt it was a wake up call as to why they had decided to run and this might be the lynch pin subject (the splash pad) that caused that to happen. Don’t hold me to that, but that may be a reaction to why you see these new people getting involved. I think we need more discussion. Everybody agrees the (splash pad) is a good idea, just not the location.”
Johnson wanted to have a larger crowd to weigh-in with concerns. The commission would eventually vote for the splash pad to be turned down.
“So, when we have money to market, can we market our grass and trees rather than an attraction?” said another member of the crowd when the vote had passed in regard to the future development of the town’s economy.
(Editor’s note: More information in an upcoming story regarding the city budget.)
Dean Wright can be reached at 74-0-446-2342, ext 2103.