Rocky Fork Enterprise

Savings of $34K

Stinchcomb: Cancel fireworks, festival

By ThisWeek Community News  • 

Gahanna's Freedom Festival and fireworks appear to be the first to fizzle as a result of the failed income-tax rate proposal that was on the May 7 ballot.

Mayor Becky Stinchcomb told council May 20 that it's her recommendation to cancel the festival and fireworks to provide a savings of $34,121 for 2013.

That decision lighted its own fuse for some council members and residents.

Council member Karen Angelou asked why Stinchcomb didn't seek council's authorization to cancel the contract for the fireworks.

She said the contract contained a cancellation clause of 25 percent, or $4,845, if canceled more than 30 days before the event.

Stinchcomb said the city negotiated with the vendor that the $4,845 could be used as a credit within the next two years.

She said she believes she acted with proper authority to cancel the events but has requested a written legal opinion by city attorney Shane Ewald.

The city also will save an additional $10,000 in 2013, Stinchcomb said, that was appropriated to fund a deposit for the 2014 show.

Stinchcomb said the city's needs in 2014 are estimated to exceed planned revenue by $12.9 million. She said it would be irresponsible to continue to spend money on non-essential services.

Resident Jeannie Hoffman agrees that spending cuts need to be made, but she sees the Independence Day celebration as a small price to pay compared to the overall budget.

Hoffman said the cancellation would encourage residents to spend money in other communities on July 4.

"No one wants to cancel the fireworks," Stinchcomb said. "It's a community-service, patriotic event we like to put on. If you want to see $20,000 go up in smoke, it's fireworks."

She emphasized, though, that the fireworks show is just one part of the expense. The event also costs $13,797 for personnel support and supplies from parks and recreation, $761 for service-staff support and $5,789 for police department staff support.

"We want to continue the support of our parade and our Lions Club," Stinchcomb said. "We want to continue that tradition, and we've committed to continue that."

Council member Beryl Anderson asked if the fireworks and festival could continue if a sponsor were to cover the expense.

Stinchcomb said that would have to occur quickly.

Several residents also addressed the failure of the income-tax measure.

Ray Kautz asked if the issue would return to the ballot.

"I had suggested it be on in November," he said. "If you bring it back, I would ask for November."

Stinchcomb said the date for an August issue already has passed, and the deadline for a November issue is Aug. 7.

Resident Ed Toney said the city needs to place the issue on the ballot again.

Without resources, he said, Gahanna will have an ineffective government.

Resident Alicia Holloway said she has lived through financial crunches as a business owner.

"You don't try to do things differently until you're forced to," she said. "I spent time last week talking to (parks and recreation director) Tony Collins about challenges of parks and recreation. They're having a hard time finding employees for summer work. There are so many who don't have jobs. Are we talking to Columbus State (Community College) and the high school counselors about those who may want to do temporary work?"

She also suggested job sharing of employees among communities, increasing the cost of pool memberships and using volunteer groups to help maintain Gahanna's multi-use trails.

In other business, council held two public hearings for the proposed Meadowbrooke subdivision with 15 residential lots at 5593 Havens Corners Road.

The current zoning is limited-overlay, single-family residential, and the proposed rezoning is the same, but with changes to the limited-overlay and development plan.

Variances also are being sought for curbs, gutters and sidewalks.

The property was zoned in late 2006 to residential-overlay district to permit a nine-lot single-family subdivision with a preservation-zone setback area.

David Hodge, an attorney representing developer Doug Maddy, said the process for the application warrants philosophical comments.

"Change is hard, and infill development is hard," he said. "It's especially hard when a field is surrounded by property owners and they took ownership of it. The neighbors are having a hard time and rightfully so."

Gahanna's Planning Commission approved the zoning application 5-2 on April 10.

"We have learned through this process that traffic is a concern for this development," Hodge said. "Even though it wasn't required, we hired a traffic engineer. That study concludes the impact on Havens Corner will be nominal."

He said stormwater also has been a concern, and those issues have been addressed.

"These are first-rate, fantastic homes, primarily natural materials with some diversity," he said. "The homes cost between ($300,000 and $350,000). There's a market, thank goodness, for folks who want a new home right in that price point. The market is right for this development in Gahanna."

Neighbors to the development, Christine Nickell and Kevin Schmidt, oppose the plan.

Nickell said water runoff mitigation is the only change to the proposal from the last time it was presented in 2011. She said the plan involves an "unreasonable" amount of density.

Schmidt agrees.

"The increase we're talking about has been described as marginal," he said. "We're talking nearly a 70-percent increase in the plan."

Schmidt also has issues with a proposed homeowners association being charged with maintaining proposed rain gardens.

"We're talking a final decision you will make that will affect our property forever," he said. "I urge you to dig deeply in stormwater mitigation techniques."

Council is expected to discuss the legislation further during its next committee meeting Tuesday, May 28.

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