Columbiana mayor: Meant no ill will to school district, board

COLUMBIANA – The city’s mayor is saying he was not meaning ill will to the Columbiana School District, but that a statement he made regarding its roof project that was not well received by a school board member was misconstrued.

The statement came after a comment by Councilman Lowell Schloneger, who said he did not like some recent headlines, claiming they appeared to only portray Columbiana in a negative light.

“I would like to see something that says Columbiana is looking good,” Schloneger said.

Blakeman said he agreed with the statement, and then referred to a comment he made during the March 4 public hearing regarding the city’s multi-million-dollar water plant project. He claimed the comment, which compared the plant project to the school’s roof project, was shed in a negative light.

“The words that I used were, ‘I do agree that it is past councils’ fault that we should have been saving up for this water plant, just as I think the school should be doing that for the roof,’” Blakeman said. “I wasn’t calling out the school. I wasn’t trying to throw the school under the bus, but it was presented that way, which probably made the school respond the way it did.”

The comment had offended board of education member Mark Hutson, who said at this month’s board meeting he was “dismayed” by the statement and believed the city and school district should work together.

Hutson was in attendance at the Tuesday council meeting not as a board member but as an attorney to speak to council another matter, and told Blakeman it did appear he was shedding a bad light on the district.

The district had sought a 29-year bond issue three times to pay for a new pitched roof over South Side Middle School but is now moving forward with a new flat roof using general fund money since those efforts failed.

Hutson then invited Blakeman to attend a school board meeting, but Blakeman replied he could not because the meetings conflict with the city’s planning commission meetings, which he chairs.

Councilman Dan Bekar argued that was not a reason to miss out on a board meeting, which begins at 6:30 p.m. the second Tuesday of the month. Bekar attends the meetings and leaves early to make it to the city’s meetings at 7 p.m.

“I would rather see cooperation between the city and school. If anybody has concerns call us and ask us, don’t make comments about funding sources that possibly aren’t understood,” Hutson said to Blakeman.

Blakeman countered his comment had nothing to do with lack of support, but lack of planning, and then said, “I didn’t write it,” referring to the article Hutson had read.

“But you do understand how it sounded,” Hutson said, to which Blakeman again countered, “I understand that but I don’t write the articles.”

Hutson then said he appreciated the clarification.

“Wholeheartedly on behalf of the board I want to say we want to cooperate with the community,” he said.