L&W complex project opposition grows

More than 100 people filled the social hall of a Seneca church last night as Adams subdivision residents and sympathetic others got the chance to question two city leaders. Whether it was a question or a statement, the audience was resilient in protest of the city’s plans to build a utilities complex on the property of the former Kellett Elementary School. Near the start, Mayor Pro-tem Ronnie O’Kelley told the crowd that, although he was one of the city leaders who approved the project, he’s now taking an open mind and is hopeful that a compromise can appease everyone. But several audience members were strident that nothing short of canceling the project there will be satisfactory. One man, identified to reporters as Charles Fox, rose from the audience and told both O’Kelley and City Attorney Mike Smith that if they persist, they can expect to face a costly legal challenge. By our count, O’Kelley and Smith fielded more than 70 questions and comments in a 90-minute period. Some of the questions, they admitted, they cannot answer. But Smith said those answers should come as early today or Monday and will be information for city council to discuss during its meeting Tuesday night at City Hall. Smith said one thing still to be determined if the legal and financial liability if the city cancels a project for which it already has hired a contractor and secured a state loan to be repaid through a bond issue. Emotions ran through the Trinity Baptist social hall—whether it was Grant Cunningham decrying the city for a failure to fully vet a process that has lead to public discord or a young mother worried that her autistic child might someday wander from home and wind up in a detention pond which, according to the plans, is to be part of the project. At the start, O’Kelley admitted that he and his city colleagues failed to communicate properly to the public its plans—in spite of some media reports that tracked the process. Next time, O’Kelley said, the city should resort to a huge billboard or go door-door. Several Adams subdivision residents said not until last week and the aborted scheduled start of grading for the complex did they realize what was going to happen.