North Broadway Street Association president Carole W. Tomko demanded last week that Mayor Michael B. Coleman halt planning for a left turn lane at the intersection of North High Street and East North Broadway.

North Broadway Street Association president Carole W. Tomko demanded last week that Mayor Michael B. Coleman halt planning for a left turn lane at the intersection of North High Street and East North Broadway.

In her letter to Coleman, Tomko declared that funds used for planning the intersection project were being spent in a "potentially unlawful" manner. They're not, according to a spokeswoman for the Department of Development.

In response to repeated requests for comment from the mayor, Department of Development assistant director Cynthia Rickman said last Friday: "The claim about we weren't allowed legally to use those dollars, we are."

Tomko's letter asked Coleman to "instruct the Development Department and the Department of Public Safety to cease and desist from any further planning, design, construction or expenditure of city funds pending your receipt of a written legal opinion from the city attorney which states whether or not the use of (Urban Infrastructure Recovery Funds) in connection with the matter at issue is lawful, or not. We also request that you formally request the city attorney investigate the matter and render its legal opinion.

"Finally, we hereby formally request a copy of your cease and desist order, your request for legal opinion from the city attorney and a copy of that legal opinion."

Tomko concluded the missive by saying, "We hope and trust that you will handle this matter in the manner required by law."

She began the letter to the mayor by stating it was the legal opinion of Phil Harmon, attorney for the North Broadway Street Association, that the use of Urban Infrastructure Recovery Funds from 2006 for planning the intersection work "is an unlawful expenditure of funds." In an e-mail to ThisWeek, Tomko wrote that was due to lack of a legislative sponsor for the expenditure.

Tomko went on to recount a meeting she had on April 13 with development director Boyce Safford III and Mark Kelsey, director of the Department of Public Service, in which she repeated earlier concerns regarding the legality of using that specific source of funding for this project.

"In a letter dated May 5, 2010, Mr. Kelsey and Mr. Safford state 'at no point during our meeting did we state that we would be seeking the city attorney's opinion on this matter,' " Tomko wrote to the mayor. "The letter continues, ' we will continue to move forward with this project '

"It is clear that the Development Department and the Department of Public Safety intend to proceed with potentially unlawful expenditure of public funds regardless of the city attorney's opinion on this matter."

City: UIRF dollars were spent properly

City council action taken four years ago permits the use of UIRF dollars for general engineering contracts, which would include things like planning for changes at the North High-North Broadway intersection, according to Rickman.

"It comes down to the legislation that was passed," she said. "We are allowed to use those funds. This isn't anything out of the ordinary."

In their jointly written May 5 letter, Kelsey and Safford, responding to an earlier letter from Tomko regarding the April 13 meeting, stated that they felt the need "to clarify some points from the meeting."

"In your letter, you referred to the use of $14,000 UIRF expenditures as an 'unauthorized' and 'unlawful' use of funds," the officials wrote. "The use of those funds was to gather initial data and conduct surveys to determine if a turn lane was necessary. We are given the authority to expend those funds from the general engineering contract on this work because these types of expenditures are a typical step in the process when studying proposed projects.

"Therefore, we were surprised by your threat of a possible lawsuit regarding the use of these funds."

Actually what Tomko wrote in her letter, dated the day after that April 13 gathering, was that based on her interpretation of what came out of the meeting, "the NBSA has elected at this point to delay filing any legal action against the city for improper use of funds."

It's all a mountain being made out of a molehill, said Clintonville Area Commission District 3 representative Clare Balombin.

"There is no plan yet," Balombin said. "I cannot imagine that all of the right of way is going to be taken. Some of the right of way will be taken, yes, but this is land that belongs not to the individuals but to the community at large.

"There is no land here that belongs to private individuals. The proposal does not take private land."

At its widest, according to Balombin, the addition of a lane at East North Broadway and North High would be only 10 feet.

Balombin lamented what she described as a continuing "campaign of misstatements and exaggerations" on the part of some East North Broadway residents regarding the intersection changes.

"That just creates a climate of fear," she said.

Last August, on a 5-4 vote, CAC members forwarded a recommendation for city officials that included, among other things, upgrading the left turn lane for westbound East North Broadway traffic to go south on North High Street.

Support for that position will almost assuredly whither when Balombin steps down from her post in July. Balombin chose not to seek another term and will be replaced by James R. Blazer II, an East North Broadway resident who has made no secret of his opposition to the project.

According to the Rickman, the assistant director of the Department of Development, a change of heart on the part of the CAC won't necessarily change what might be done at the intersection.

"The bottom line on this is a safety issue as it relates to illegal left turns and that sort of thing," Rickman said.