If Mayor Clint Lamb has his way, Sullivan is going to change, whether it wants to or not.
Among the changes Lamb is supporting is the creation of a new public plaza about one block from the town square on the site of a former elementary school.
The mayor hosted a public forum Tuesday night in the school’s old gym, which still stands about two blocks north of the town square. Attended by people Lamb has appointed to town boards and members of the general public, the meeting was billed as a discussion of the impact of parks and recreation on quality of life in the city.
Speakers at the approximately 90-minute meeting included Lamb and park and recreation officials from the Indiana Association of Cities and Towns, a lobby group, the Plainfield parks department and the Indiana Parks and Recreation Association, a professional organization.
The officials all spoke in support of turning the site of the former Sullivan Central Elementary School into a city “plaza” as a way to raise property values, improve quality of life and draw visitors.
“This is a park for everybody,” Lamb said. “It’s a plaza for everybody.” The idea is not to duplicate the Sullivan city park, a few blocks to the south, he said. “This is going to be a place to congregate.”
The Sullivan Redevelopment Commission, something Lamb re-established after taking office in 2012, worked with state officials to demolish the old elementary school. The school’s gymnasium remains and would become an event center, a town official at the meeting said.
“It all started here about 100 years ago,” Lamb said standing in the old gym. “What better location for it to all start over again?”
After an approximately 50-minute presentation, the public was invited to make comments or ask questions.
One man was critical of the mayor’s big vision when, he said, weeds are growing on the town square.
“I have the same concerns,” Lamb responded. “That’s why I ran for mayor.”
Nate Thorne, deputy director of Plainfield’s parks department, said more traffic on the square will encourage more people to pull weeds and care more about the square’s appearance. Thorne also called Sullivan’s old-style town square an “asset” many communities lack. “You guys are so lucky. You just have to take advantage of that.”
About 50 people attended the meeting. Asked by Lamb to raise their hands if they agreed the town is on the right track, only a few hands were raised before the informal survey was interrupted by more public comment. Those comments were not always easy to hear, as the public was not provided with microphones.
The Sullivan City Council would have to approve any plan to transform the former school grounds to a public plaza, Lamb said before the meeting. Jim Exline, president of the Sullivan Redevelopment Commission, said the plan would be to complete the plaza and then turn it over to the Sullivan Parks Department.
Reporter Arthur Foulkes can be reached at 812-231-4232 or firstname.lastname@example.org