TROY — Residents expressed concerns about Troy City Council’s communication at its regular meeting on Monday.
During resident comments, Andrew Luring addressed council and city staff and asked them to be more approachable.
“I want the citizens of Troy to feel comfortable in bringing their sincere concerns and questions to city council and I want council to be more receptive to the public,” Luring said in his opening statements.
Luring said he fears residents with less education and fewer opportunities will never address city council for fear their concerns won’t be heard “no matter how good their ideas or concerns may be.”
Luring said when he addressed council about his concerns about spending taxpayer funds on leasing the private parking lot owned by First United Methodist Church for City Hall employees and six spaces for Troy Area Chamber of Commerce, he met with resident Wade Westfall following the meeting. He said he discussed how Westfall shared he’d been trying to get council to build a parking garage for years, an idea Luring supports. Luring said Westfall had told him how a city council member had texted him during the meeting while Luring was speaking. The text from the council member asked Westfall who Luring was and, “Did you pay him to say these things?”
Luring said he failed to ask which council member had texted, but he was given the impression “that a wealthy businessperson is more important than an ordinary citizen.”
Luring said the perception isn’t healthy for city council or local government.
Luring said he also is concerned with the EPA’s recent discussion of the toxic plume on the East Side of the city as well as the Kettering Hospital and its agenda for the community.
Council member Bill Lutz addressed Luring’s statements and said the at-large council members have held quarterly meetings with residents at the Troy-Miami County Public Library and have tried to be as open and approachable as possible. Luring gave Lutz examples of two issues he shared with council about the age requirement to purchase cigarettes and the federal government’s noise level program for railroads recently. Luring said only one council member, John Schweser, spoke to him in person about the issues.
Lutz said council has taken efforts to improve communication and is open to recommendations from Luring and anyone else. Luring said he was concerned and “it’s a cold reception here sometimes.” Luring also noted that he believed decisions were made at the committee level and not heard through council meetings.
Resident Aimee Shannon echoed Luring’s sentiment about council’s receptiveness.
“There’s a whole lot of people out there who are saying they do not feel they can come here. They do not feel that they are heard. They do not feel that they’ve been heard in previous times,” she said.
Shannon recalled when she was a proponent of medical marijuana dispensaries in the city two years ago, council members wouldn’t look her in the eye and one person rolled their eyes when she approached to address council, she said.
“It was very off-putting and it got to the point where I didn’t come to council meetings because I literally left here so frustrated, not because people disagreed with me … but I felt like I was treated like dirt frequently,” Shannon said. “There are a couple that are working to making some changes … but it’d be really nice to see everybody doing that.”
Shannon commended Lutz and Robin Oda (who was not present) for their responsiveness to questions on social media, specifically Troy resident groups.
Lester Conard commended Luring and said he wished more citizens came to council meetings.
“I wish more citizens would come up here and express themselves. You people don’t get any opposition,” Conard said. Conard said he attended an at-large council member meeting and Lutz sent a letter of appreciation which Conard said was the first time ever during his years attending city events.
“I think some of the people are seeing things through different eyes and that’s good, but some, well, are in a fog and tunnel vision, making people happy and that’s sad,” Conard said.
Following Conard’s comments, council member Bill Twiss said he receives comments, calls and emails from citizens and said he encouraged citizens to continue to contact them.
In council agenda news:
Council approved the following resolutions: Bid ODOT road salt; participate in the 2019 Community Housing Improvement Program with Miami County, Piqua and Tipp City; and authorize payment to Frontier Communications for relocation of poles and lines from the Great Miami River levee north of West Water Street at a cost not to exceed $45,000.
Council held the first reading of the rezoning of 10.284 acres on Peters Road from county zoning to city zoning of R-4 single-family residential district. A public hearing will be held April 15.
Reach Melanie Yingst at firstname.lastname@example.org