Gahanna residents are invited to continue asking questions and sharing concerns with their council representatives during informal "Coffees with Council" sessions.
The upcoming times, dates and places are 6:30-7:30 p.m. Wednesday, June 18, at Donatos, 1391 E. Johnstown Road; 6:30-7:30 p.m. Thursday, July 10, at Panera, 91 N. Hamilton Road; and 9-10 a.m. Saturday, July 26, at Creekside Cafe, 53 Granville St.
Council president Brian Larick said he's pleased with the Coffees with Council meetings.
"We have had people that have never attended the formal council meetings in the past, as well as regulars," he said. "The discussions have been very specific, such as sidewalk condition in a particular area and handicap access."
Larick said a resident who has limited vision brought to council's attention several issues regarding accessibility.
Older sidewalk ramps don't align to the walking direction, making it dangerous when attempting to cross a street, he said.
"Sidewalks in disrepair result in trips and falls, along with sidewalks that are not cleared or are blocked in winter due to plowing," Larick said. "This was an issue particularly with this last winter, due to the heavy snow load."
As a result of that coffee discussion topic, council forwarded to the administration the areas of immediate concern for maintenance and repair.
City administrators are reviewing prioritization and planning for replacement of the remaining sidewalk ramps.
Larick said other coffee topics have been broad, citywide issues like tax-increment financing. He said many items are a part of city function, such as finance, zoning, rules and tools, that residents hear snippets about. But without an opportunity to sit down and learn the details of function, he said, the full scope and impacts are left to potential misunderstanding.
One common theme at the coffees is that the formal meetings could be intimidating, Larick said.
Gahanna resident Mary Hiland said she was glad she made the effort to recruit a friend to accompany her to a meeting at Tim Hortons on Agler Road.
"I felt that the venue was a comfortable one," she said. "Having coffee and doughnuts makes a meeting much more pleasant. We were few in number, but that meant everybody had an opportunity to voice their concerns."
Hiland said she was pleased that none of the concerns was dismissed.
"We had the impression that they were all taken seriously, even those that had no immediate solution," she said. "I look forward to the next meeting in my ward. It makes a lot of sense to have these small meetings so we can discuss the concerns of our own area in Gahanna."
To ensure follow-through from the meetings, Larick said, council is tracking the topics and updating a list to make sure concerns don't get brushed aside.
Council member Ryan Jolley said the coffees represent a wonderful opportunity for members of the community to interact directly with their elected representatives.
Residents ask questions, raise concerns or offer suggestions to improve the city, he said.
"We have been made aware of several issues, and we have been able to follow up and, in conjunction with the administration when appropriate, provide resolution," Jolley said. "These are the types of opportunities people often complain are lacking in our democratic process, so I would strongly encourage everyone who is able to attend one of these meetings. If you are unable to attend the meetings scheduled in your ward, don't hesitate to attend in another ward."
Larick said the coffees are ongoing with locations in each ward for convenience.
"I invite and encourage anyone with a question, issue or idea to come out, meet your representatives and discuss what is on your mind," he said.