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June 6, 2014

NASH: Back to the council again

— When this year rolled around and it was time to make New Year’s resolutions, I did the best that I could. I know that when you set goals they should be attainable, not so far out of reach that there is no way that you could possibly honor them. Many of my resolutions for this year I was able to disregard within the first week or so of the new year, if not on New Year’s Day itself.

My final resolution for 2014 survived all the way through the first five months of the year.  When I made this year’s resolutions I knew that I was in for a busy year in my personal life and wasn’t going to have time to do the things that I had done in prior years. This year I wasn’t going to have time for city council meetings.

I decided that I was going to go ahead and break my resolution late last week when a reporter from this newspaper announced via Twitter that there was no items on the agenda besides the annual update on the Ohio River Greenway progress. With nothing to vote on, just a chance for council members to listen to a presentation, the council members would be limited in their opportunities to “pontificate” as one friend and regular meeting attendant put it.

Over the past nearly five years of writing this opinion column I have attended many city council meetings. It was an opportunity to obtain column fodder and to actually see how the sausage is made. Most of the time it was a social event for me and some of the other regulars, sometimes meeting up for dinner or just drinks prior to the bimonthly meetings. Having a drink before hand would help take the edge off to the more particular unnerving meetings and usually helped with the after-meeting hangover.

This week at the meeting Shaunna Graf, project coordinator for the Ohio River Greenway Project, gave an overview on the progress of the project. She explained what was completed in the project and what the next phases will be. Completing the section in New Albany approximately between Eighth and 14th streets will finish up most of the New Albany portion. Crossing Silver Creek near the Loop Island Wetlands is part of the next phase connecting it to the Clarksville portion.

The biggest announcement of the night was one that everyone knew about and was the biggest news of last month. The opening of the Big Four pedestrian bridge was one of the highlights of the entire Greenway Project. The impact that the opening has had on the city of Jeffersonville has been living up to expectations. I have taken my family to the bridge on a couple occasions and the crowds have been huge each time. When the park surrounding the Jeffersonville landing is complete there will be even more.

The next part of the presentation is when the wheels kind of came off as far as I’m concerned. Graf was explaining about what steps were being taken in order to add the opening of the K & I Bridge to the project. It was not in the original plan for the Ohio River Greenway but many people believe that it could have the same impact on New Albany as the Big Four Bridge has had on Jeffersonville.

One of the next steps in the plan is for the Indiana General Assembly to pass legislation to amend the Indiana Recreational Immunity Laws so that they are in line with the state of Kentucky. With these laws passed it would make it easier for the K & I Bridge to be used by the public, while still being owned by the Norfolk Southern Railroad.

This is when the anticipated “pontification” by one of the council members began. Having dealt with the railroad as part of another project he knows that it would be an uphill battle. With his vast knowledge of the plan and the agreements that needed to be ironed out, he believes it could be decades before any progress could be made. He basically chastised the project coordinator for believing this could be done easily.

Nearly an hour and a half into the meeting with almost nothing on the agenda someone called for adjournment. I realized I hadn’t missed much by not going for several months and little has changed in the meantime. Getting to see old friends was the highlight of the evening and the nightcap afterwards hit the spot. I don’t know if I will ever be a regular meeting attendant ever again, but if I do I know now to take it very slowly.        

— Matthew Nash can be reached at dmatthewnash@gmail.com

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