Position on Columbiana planning board still open

COLUMBIANA – A seat on the city’s planning commission remains open and council members are hoping to appoint someone by March 19.

The chairman position held by Richard McBane opened when he took a seat on council. He had already served one term on the commission when he was reappointed to another six-year term in December. The new term began Jan. 1 and the person replacing him will fill the remainder of that term.

Council members were somewhat surprised recently to learn no one has shown an interest and Councilman Bryan Blakeman believed it was because of recent developments on council.

Blakeman had opposed McBane’s reappointment to the planning commission at the end of last year because it was done without first giving other residents consideration.

Blakeman said at that time the commission seat should be advertised in the newspaper before an appointment is made. Then-City Manager Keith Chamberlin said the seat wasn’t posted because, like the two people up for reappointment to the zoning board of appeals, McBane had been suggested by assistant building and zoning inspector Bob Belding.

Chamberlin had also said he wasn’t aware of any other people interested in the chairman position, although Blakeman said he was certain long-time resident Don Oberholtzer had applied.

Oberholtzer said he did apply, but Chamberlin said he did not have the application at his disposal.

McBane was appointed to the commission by a 3-2 vote despite Oberholtzer’s public display of interest the evening of the vote.

Blakeman and then-Councilman Bob Bieshelt were the only dissenters and stated their disappointment publicly.

Bieshelt resigned from his seat on council in early February following a similar instance in which he, Blakeman and Councilman James King felt not enough consideration was given to applicants for the position left by Chamberlin in December.

Lance Willard was hired to replace Chamberlin following a tie-vote broken by Mayor Dave Spatholt on Jan. 29.

Although Bieshelt didn’t make a public statement as to why he was resigning and did not return a phone call later that evening, Blakeman said he believed it was because he was tired of casting votes for matters that typically ended up being overthrown.

Blakeman cited that as a reason for his own decision to leave council this year. He filed an application with the board of elections in February for the mayor’s seat and will appear on the May 7 ballot.

He has said he isn’t pleased with how decisions seem to be predetermined by some on council and remain unchanged despite the amount of consideration given during executive sessions.

Ironically, in late February McBane – who had run for the council seat in 2011 and lost to Bieshelt-was selected to replace Bieshelt on council by majority vote. Once again, Blakeman opposed for the same reason he did in late 2012 and with the hiring of Willard – he believed not enough consideration was given to those wishing to apply.

Councilman King, who was absent the night of the vote, said last week he didn’t believe due consideration was given to other applicants.

“Did people know who was applying? Did you know who was applying beforehand?” he asked council.

Council members didn’t receive the applications until minutes before that meeting and Council Clerk Deann Davis explained it was because interested residents had until the night before to turn them in.

Council took a few minutes to look over the five other applications before selecting McBane.

While he opposed the selection publicly, Blakeman abstained from the vote.

King said he didn’t even have an opportunity to look over any applications prior to the meeting in which he was absent and that while he has “nothing against” McBane he didn’t feel the selection was done correctly.

“I want to apologize to everyone who applied,” he said.

Blakeman said he believes no one has shown an interest in the open commission seat because they “don’t want to waste their time.”

Spatholt took a few minutes during the latest meeting to see if anyone in attendance was interested in serving on the commission but no one – including Oberholtzer – jumped at the chance.

When contacted later Oberholtzer said he had submitted the application to the city a few years ago and was never contacted, and has since changed his mind.

When asked if his lack of interest was a result of recent developments, as Blakeman had suggested, he didn’t wish to comment.

“I put a letter in a couple years ago and nothing happened so I went another direction and I don’t have the interest right now for that,” he said.

He decided to throw his hat in the ring then because he had recently retired from the Columbiana Foundry, where he worked for more than 30 years.

He wanted to do something for the city because, “Columbiana has been good to me and my family,” he said.

Anyone interested in applying for the commission seat should send resumes to City Hall, 28 W. Friend St.