Melby criticizes Kozak, aldermen

Melby criticizes Kozak, aldermen by David Lias A motion made by City Alderman Jack Powell to revisit the issue of relocating and/or remodeling Vermillion's City Hall received severe criticism Monday before it was granted any formal approval by the Vermillion City Council.

Powell made the motion when it came time to address the issue on the city council's agenda.

He asked that the city begin the process by agreeing upon and approving an acceptable set of community review steps and guideline policies and procedures.

The motion received a second by a fellow alderman.

"The purpose of this motion is � since our next agenda item is to discuss a proposal � I thought unless we had consensus from this body to revisit this issue, it wouldn't make a lot of sense to take time developing policies and procedures," Mayor Roger Kozak said. "The purpose of the motion is to talk about what we want to do next."

"I guess I was taken a little bit by surprise that this was in motion form, and this was put on the agenda as a discussion," Lynette Melby said, addressing the council. "I guess I wasn't expecting any motion out of it."

Melby asked the council to keep a couple things in mind when they revisit the city hall issue.

"We don't know if we're going to revisit it," Mayor Roger Kozak said, "unless we take a vote on the motion before it."

"That's why I'm speaking to that," Melby replied. "I didn't expect a motion. What I would ask is that you go at this with conservatism and with integrity and with a mind of not repeating history.

"The last thing this town needs is a fourth ballot issue this year," she said. "I think this community has been torn

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apart enough for one year."

Melby said the community is feeling some pain. She noted that virtually all of the aldermen are homeowners.

"There might just be a population in Vermillion that's under-represented here on this council," she said.

Melby read a portion of a letter she received from an elderly Vermillion woman who lives on a limited income, who favors the city conducting a survey of "common ordinary citizens" to discover what, if any, public consensus may exist on the city hall issue.

She noted that Kozak stated in a recent news story that city funds were stretched tight. Melby also mentioned the impact that possible repeal of the sales tax on food could have on city revenue.

"If that's the case, then what's the hurry?" she said. "Why revisit it now?"

Much of Melby's criticism was aimed directly at Kozak. She repeatedly quoted statements made by the mayor in news stories, and respond negatively to them.

She noted the cutbacks recently announced by the Vermillion School Board.

"I realize that the school and the city budget are separate," Melby said. "We also all know that they all come from the same pockets � the taxpayers'. I think this is a highly inappropriate time for you guys start looking at a new city hall all over again."

Melby said there were a lot of questions on the estimated costs of purchasing and remodeling the Community First building.

"It was way over-extended," she said. "You need an honest estimate, and you need an honest architect that is not led to come up with an answer. That's a big part of why this went down was the lack of integrity in this process."

Another unanswered question, Melby said, centers on what would happen to the old city hall building if the municipal offices were moved into the Community First bank building.

"There was talk about renting it out ? then we're going to have to fix it up," Melby said. "Then we're going to have to bring it into compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act."

City Manager Jim Patrick addressed that issue during discussions later in the meeting.

"Whoever we would rent it to would not be held to the same public standards as the city is," he said.

Patrick noted that a private business located across the street from city hall is not handicapped-accessible.

"They don't need to be from the aspect of ADA compliance. A public building does," he said.

She told the city council it could bring integrity back to the process of dealing with city hall issue by listening.

"Don't tell us what the consensus is," Melby said. "Roger (Kozak) sat at the last meeting and said he believed the consensus was to buy the bank building and to slow down on its repairs. That's not what I'm hearing. Don't spin to us what the consensus is."

Melby said the Vermillion community will make an honest decision if given an honest choice.

"That isn't what they had last time," she said.

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