GALLIPOLIS — With the vote against a splash pad for City Park taking place in late February, Gallipolis City Commissioner Matt Johnson said he felt the last meeting may have been an “ambush to reject a gift … in the guise of protecting history.”
City Manager Gene Greene would offer another route in terms of potentially funding the splash pad in an alternate location.
The debate on the topic continued at Tuesday’s meeting of Gallipolis City Commission.
“We can claim to be progressive with change and growth but it sends the message that maybe we’re not quite ready to do that (turning down the pad),” said Johnson.
Commission President Tony Gallagher asked Johnson if he was talking about the splash pad and Johnson answered in the affirmative. He felt the pad was a symbolic issue.
“You know it was voted down?” said Gallagher.
“I know it was voted down, just as easily as I could bring it back up as a motion right now,” said Johnson. “That would be symbolic in and of itself.”
Johnson said the issue could die without another motion but the matter would be pushed into the future. He could potentially raise the issue every meeting. The pad issue could be potentially brought up again with the result of the November 2017 election and its decision on the Gallipolis City Commission. Johnson felt some of the people in the audience at the last meeting were not there to review the city’s proposed budget for the 2017 season. He would go on to say he felt some in the crowd were seated to oppose the splash pad issue without members from the Downtown Revitalization Project, which has heavily lobbied to put the splash pad in the Gallipolis City Park. Many of those members were not present for the previous meeting.
City Auditor Annette Landers said she took calls from concerned citizens about the pad but was unsure that there was any organized effort to thwart a splash pad approval vote at the last meeting. Greene would say the same as would City Commissioner Steven Wallis where they repeated information about previous city historical and park votes that they felt the pad was a good idea but in a bad location.
Greene said he had received support from community members concerned about refurbishing the municipal pool who also wanted to initiate a fundraising project due to city financial budget concerns. With that, he offered a road where the pad could be financed with reported grants and other avenues, so long as the pad was not placed in City Park.
Johnson would say he hoped the commission would come to the best decision for the community but that the splash pad issue would likely not die, especially with the coming election.
Johnson announced his candidacy for city commission was also in question due to signatures on his ballot approval petition. Individuals who had signed paperwork might not have done so in the appropriate way not due to maliciousness but by mistake. Johnson said he was intending to appeal those before the Gallia Board of Elections but was unsure of what conclusion would be reached.
Johnson emphasized that business owners were taking notice of city politics and running for office because the splash pad issue may have served as a symbolic catalyst for their concerns.
Dean Wright can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2103.