Lebanon council discusses West Side Park

Jake Old • Apr 17, 2017 at 7:47 PM

Emotions flared during a Lebanon City Council work session Monday evening when members of the city’s West Side Park Task Force spoke out against the proposed park.

The work session, which was scheduled to discuss items already on the agenda for Tuesday’s regular council meeting, did not originally feature any items related to the park, but the task force was granted as a late addition to the agenda.

The task force recently approved preliminary designs to present to the Lebanon City Council, and task force Chair JeniLind Brinkman said she hoped the council could vote on the preliminary designs Tuesday.

Mayor Bernie Ash said he wanted to wait until the first council meeting in May to consider the preliminary designs.

In Lebanon, the mayor sets the council agenda, and Ash said the item would not be on Tuesday’s agenda. However, according to Lebanon City Attorney Andy Wright, council members can vote to suspend the rules and add an item to the agenda.

“I have a strong suspicion the council will suspend the rules,” Ash said when a member of the task force asked him if the item would be considered Tuesday.

Traci Peel, appointed to the task force by Ash, spoke out against the park, and said the city is spending too much money on the park. The city previously approved a $5 million loan agreement for the park. 

“Can you really look me in the eye and say it’s the right thing to do?” Peel asked. Councilor Joey Carmack responded that the council had already voted on funding.

Councilor Rob Cesternino asked whether Peel was speaking as a member of the task force or a private citizen, as the funding was not the issue discussed by the council, but rather conceptual designs.

“I’m speaking as both right now,” Peel responded.

Cesternino said that task force members have a mandate that they have to follow, and that speaking as a private citizen during a work session was out of line. Private citizens may address the council during the public comment portion of meetings.

“Task force members need to stay in their lane,” Cesternino said.

Brinkman said the task force unanimously voted to send the designs to the city council for consideration. Two task force members were absent during the voting, and a third left the meeting before the vote. Brinkman said Peel was among those who voted in favor to send the designs to the city council.

“Leading this task force, I tried to give everyone a chance to have their voice heard, but not dominate the conversation,” she said. “Everyone who was present voted for it.”

Cesternino took exception to a remark Peel made regarding the origin of the park designs. The land where the park will be located was donated by Councilor Rick Bell and his family.

“(Peel) tried to disparage the former mayor (Philip Craighead) and Councilor Rick Bell by saying there was some nefarious activity going on behind the scenes,” Cesternino said. “It’s a park for crying out loud.”

The Lebanon City Council meets Tuesday at 6 p.m. in the Town Meeting Hall at 200 N. Castle Heights Ave.  

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