News and Tribune

October 3, 2012

Gonder: New Albany ignored own tree policy for park

Abolishment of council health insurance passes on initial ballots


NEW ALBANY — The city failed to follow its own guidelines when nine trees were removed last week to make way for the New Albany Bicentennial Park, City Councilman John Gonder said this week.

Gonder — who also serves on the New Albany Tree Board — said the city neglected its own policy when it comes to removing trees from public property.

“The trees were cut without any appearance in front of the tree board,” Gonder said during Monday’s council meeting.

He added the tree removal was “a breach of what we should be doing” and said mediation in the way of financial payment for the actions is needed.

Gonder said the tree board has fined residents and businesses for removing trees without permission.

No one from the administration addressed the issue during Monday’s meeting.

Last week, New Albany Economic Development Director David Duggins said the trees were ruled to be unhealthy by three specialists.

“These three specialists have marked all of the trees at the site for removal based on findings of internal rot and improper tree maintenance, which has caused irrevocable damage,” he said.

Fifteen trees were planted on the property, which is at the intersection of Pearl and Spring streets, Duggins added. He said Greg Mills, the city’s arborist, concurred with the findings of the three specialists.

Mills is also an adviser to the city’s tree board.

Council insurance rebuked on initial readings

By a count of 5-3, the council voted to abolish its option to receive city health insurance.

The measure was sponsored by Councilman Dan Coffey, and will require a third ballot likely later this month before it becomes official.

Three council members — Kevin Zurschmiede, Diane McCartin-Benedetti and Bob Caesar — receive city health insurance. Ninety percent of premiums for health insurance for public workers are covered by the city.

But the only part-time employees allowed to receive health insurance are council members.

Zurschmiede abstained from voting on the ordinance. McCartin-Benedetti, Caesar and Shirley Baird voted against it.

Horseshoe decides on 25k for Bicentennial

On Tuesday, the Horseshoe Foundation of Floyd County board decided where it would spend the $25,000 in funds it dedicated for New Albany bicentennial events.

The foundation gave a total of $250,000 for the bicentennial, with $225,000 going for the bicentennial park. Of the remaining funds, $20,000 will be used for the Jan. 26 Bicentennial Ball.

The board also voted to spend $5,000 on bicentennial coloring books.

As to why the events were chosen, Horseshoe Foundation of Floyd County Executive Director Jerry Finn said the ball is “coming up quickly” and money is needed to support it.

“And our board saw it as a great opportunity to do a signature event,” Finn said.

“The coloring books are something that all young children in the community can benefit from, as well as learn some of the history of New Albany in the process.”

On Monday, the council approved spending $85,000 on bicentennial events on initial ballots. There was discussion about changing the appropriation before final reading so that events deemed to be more inclusive would be funded as opposed to balls and galas.

75k approved for Town Clock Church steeple

The parameters of the funding agreement may change by the final ballot, but the council voted 7-2 Monday to back a restoration effort for the historic Town Clock Church with $75,000.

Located at 300 E. Main St., the church was a link in the Underground Railroad and served as a safe haven for slaves in the 1860s. The building is more than 160 years old, and Second Baptist Church has held services there since 1889.

Along with other restoration proposals, the church and local community groups are trying to raise funds to replace the sizable steeple that once topped the building before it was destroyed by lightning about 1919.

The Floyd County Historical Society, Indiana Landmarks, Keep New Albany Clean and Green and potentially the Horseshoe Foundation of Floyd County are among the groups partnering with the church to raise funds for the work, officials said.

“I think we owe it to successive generations to maintain it,” said Gonder, who sponsored the council ordinance.

According to an analysis by the local firm Michell Timperman Ritz Architects, the cost for the first phase of work including replicating the original steeple and repairing architectural woodwork is $217,500.

The total cost of the project — which could include repairing masonry, applying a water repellent system and refurbishing windows — could be as much as $403,500, according to the report.

Gonder cited in the measure that the church should actively seek out matching grants if the city awarded the money. But Councilman Scott Blair said he wanted a specific matching grant total placed in the appropriation measure before he would support it.

He along with Councilman Greg Phipps voted against the proposal on first and second readings.

Phipps acknowledged the history of the building, but said he has “strong feelings of separation of church and state” and wouldn’t support the measure unless the city has at least an easement on the steeple.

He suggested the city explore purchasing the building and leasing it to the church for as little as $1 a year.

Second Baptist Rev. LeRoy Marshall said the church has a membership base of about 75. He said he would have to discuss any potential city-ownership of the church building or property with members before he could agree to a proposal.