Part of crowd at town hall meeting. (Photo by Rebekah R. Blomenberg)
Decatur's first Town Hall meeting happened Tuesday night, led by the mayor and city council. It began at 6 p.m. at Riverside Center, and nearly 40 citizens were in attendance.
Mayor John Schultz began by stating that the main purpose of the meeting was to get ideas from the people about what they'd like done with the empty lot at Second and Monroe streeys where the old sweeper shop was located. He said the council plans to hold these meetings quarterly, and people will be able to come in and present problems, questions, or concerns with city government.
Councilman Matt Dyer added that current ideas for the empty lot included putting a mural or several murals on the wall that still stands there, or putting a park in the lot.
Rex Hinsky agreed with the park idea, saying that a park there at the beginning of the business district would be a good anchor for the Indiana Main Street Program -- which is concerned with beautifying downtown areas and making them more appealing -- and would attract businesses to the downtown area.
Charlie Brune presented pictures he had brought of murals in Montpelier, which looked attractive and had been completely designed and done by volunteers. He said that this would help minimize costs. He suggested listing a history of the businesses that had stood in that lot, and Dyer mentioned that Nancy Lichtle and her family had suggested something similar and offered to help pay for it.
The mayor added that the city of Wabash also has something like that.
Kevin Cook showed pictures he had brought of murals in Van Wert and Franklin, Ohio, and suggested that the city create something that looked three-dimensional.
Mark Donaghy presented a digital walk-through on his laptop of the park design he has been doing for the empty lot across from the library.
Yvonne Gilbert suggested adding one of the sculptures from the Sculpture Walk.
Street/Sanitation Superintendant Jeremy Gilbert said that based on the location of traffic lights and the small size of the lot, it would be unsafe to turn it into a parking lot.
Eileen Eichhorn said that regardless of what was done — she suggested a garden terrace -- security measures should be taken against vandalism. She also suggested having a design competition for the lot and offering a prize to whoever won.
Brune mentioned potentially holding an event tentatively called First Fridays on First, which would be held in the parking lot on First Street, and could feature food vendors, music acts, face painting, and other ways for the citizens to come together and remember that Decatur is a good place to live. The mayor agreed that the city's goal is to become more of a destination point.
Brune said that another way to make downtown Decatur more attractive would be to have more visible signs. He showed a picture of Second Street from the 1940s, as well as a current picture, noting how few visible signs were in the latter. He mentioned that the current sign ordinance states that signs must be set back from the road at least five feet, and this makes it hard for businesses to be noticed by customers.
His wife, Jean, also brought up that the ordinance was worded in a way that discourages businesses to make signs.
The council said it would review the ordinance and consider re-writing it with more encouraging language, but keeping safety in mind, as having too many signs on the road can restrict drivers' visibility, especially at intersections.
On another matter, Kelly Ehinger asked whether the city planned to begin picking up recyclables separately from regular trash. She said that most people she has talked to about this have said that they are extremely supportive of recycling, but don't do it because the city doesn't pick it up.
Councilman Ken Meyer said that he is already involved in a study that would break down the costs of adding this service, to make sure that everyone would not in fact have to pay a lot more to do so.
Mayor John Schultz reminded everyone that there are two places in town to drop off recycling: the station by D&D Timesaver on Bellmont Road takes recyclables on Thursdays from 8 a.m. to noon, and then the transfer station just south of town by Golden Meadows, which takes recyclables through the week and on most Saturdays.
Mayor Schultz wrapped up the meeting by announcing that the next meeting will take place at the Riverside Center at 6 p.m. on April 23. He encouraged everyone to attend!