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April 23, 2014

A MAKEOVER OR A TAKEOVER? New Albany Clean and Green, mayor butt heads

Beautification group says it wants to improve city; mayor says rules must be followed

NEW ALBANY — Keep New Albany Clean and Green was established with the goal of beautifying the city, but the organization has spent much of its time weeding through issues with the city’s administration.

From disagreements over planters to a stop-work order on the rehabilitation of Town Clock Church, Mayor Jeff Gahan’s administration and the New Albany Board of Public Works and Safety have had more than a round or two of sparring with the organization.

Gahan maintained this week the city isn’t out to quell volunteer efforts, but rather his administration has a responsibility to ensure regulations are being followed.

“We certainly support making the city colorful, and we certainly support the effort to have flowers downtown,” Gahan said of the latest grievance.

Last year, Keep New Albany Clean and Green installed 60 planters. The organization requested to add another 42 planters in downtown and midtown this year, and that’s where the disagreement began.

After tabling the request for several weeks, Board of Works President Warren Nash said the city had received complaints about the sidewalk planters blocking handicap ramps and pedestrian signal buttons. Earlier this month, the board declined to approve any more planters, and the New Albany Street Department collected about 20 of the pots deemed to be impeding upon pedestrian access.

Keep New Albany Clean and Green President Irv Stumler said volunteers had moved some of the planters before the street department came by to inspect them, yet they were still taken.

“They could have all been moved out of the way,” Stumler said.

The planters that were taken by the street department remain in the city’s possession. Stumler requested that the planters left not be collected by the city until the sides have a chance to meet and discuss what happens next.

Though the organization took the advice of a professional landscape engineer when choosing the pots, city officials also took issue with the size of the planters, as they said they were too small and could cause people to trip. Board of works members also said the planters were basically becoming trash cans, as people were filling them with litter.

Stumler also disagreed with that claim, as the organization hired Rauch Industries to maintain and clean the planters last year.

It’s not the first issue the sides have disagreed on, and might not be the last.

Keep New Albany Clean and Green, as well as Stumler, have played an integral role in the Town Clock Church rehabilitation project. The city stopped work on the site last year, as New Albany Building Commissioner David Brewer said a licensed contractor was needed for work.

Though the group complied, Stumler has maintained the city’s ruling was reached in error.

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07_26_jam_camp_01w.jpg

Rachel May, New Albany, left, works with Julia Coward, 13, Jeffersonville, during the Rachel May Studios and New Albany Production House's Jam Camp in New Albany on Thursday afternoon. A total of six participants attended the week-long camp for teenagers where they worked on songwriting, musicianship, artist development, and recording.

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