News From Terre Haute, Indiana

April 15, 2014

City Council tables graffiti, financial consultant items

Pizza Hut to build new store on 3rd Street

Arthur Foulkes
The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — The Terre Haute City Council voted to table two of the larger items on its agenda Tuesday night in City Hall.

First, the nine-member body – of which seven were present – voted to delay consideration of an ordinance intended to reduce graffiti in the city. After several minutes of discussion, including questions concerning who decides if something is “graffiti” or “street art,” the council decided to hold off a vote on the matter.

During the discussion, Councilman John Mullican, D-6th, said he would like to see the City of Terre Haute begin taking steps to remove graffiti even before an ordinance is passed. If city officials desire to work with property owners to remove graffiti – as supporters of the ordinance have stated – there is nothing stopping the city from rounding up volunteers and getting started, he said.

Second, the council voted to delay until next month several votes that ultimately would allow the council to hire its own financial consultant.

Last year, the council voted to spend up to $20,000 for the services of a financial consultant to provide information and advice about the city’s budget. Mullican has proposed spending up to $15,000 this year for the same services. The city has been relieving some of the pressure on its “general fund” by transferring some expenses from the general fund to other areas of the city budget, Mullican has stated, adding that a financial consultant is needed to help the council monitor all city spending.

However, the consultant idea ran into some opposition during the meeting. Councilman Bob All, R-2nd, said the council benefited from the consultant’s services last year, but this year he would oppose the expense as unnecessary. Members of the council should work closely with the City Controller’s office to learn about budget matters, he said.

Mullican responded that $15,000 is a small expense compared with the city’s $90 million in annual spending. The consultant helps council members operate as better “fiscal managers,” he said.

Councilman Neil Garrison proposed tabling the matter after Councilman George Azar, D-at large, said he will abstain from a vote on a consultant because he has a relative who works for Sackrider & Co., the company hired last year to do the consulting work and presumed to do the work this year. That left just six council members to cast votes Tuesday night, and five are needed for approval. With All’s opposition, that meant the remaining five members present Tuesday night – Don Morris, D-at large, Council President Amy Auler, Todd Nation, D-4th, Garrison and Mullican – would all need to vote in favor of the expense. The motion to table the matter until next month passed without opposition.

Speaking after the meeting, Auler and Morris both said they remain undecided on the matter. Councilmen Jim Chalos, D-at large, and Norm Loudermilk, D-3rd, were both absent from the meeting.

• Also Tuesday, the council voted to vacate a public alley running through the parking lot of the Voorhees Street Pizza Hut on South Third Street. Pizza Hut is planning to build an entirely new building at the site and, in doing the preliminary paperwork for the project, discovered a public alley running east-west through the lot.

The council voted without opposition to vacate the alley, which essentially transferred ownership of the public alley to the owners of the Pizza Hut property. The vote came despite an objection from the Terre Haute Department of Engineering, which opposes creating “dead end” alleys whenever possible, said Chuck Ennis, city engineer at last week’s council “sunshine” meeting. Pizza Hut will not barricade the exit of the alley, meaning the alley would effectively not be a dead end, said Bill Olah, an attorney representing the owners of the Pizza Hut property.

The council meeting Tuesday took place on an unusual day for the nine-member body. It normally meets on the first and second Thursdays of each month. However, because of the Vigo County School Corp.’s spring break schedule, the council met on the second Thursday and third Tuesday this month. It will resume its regular schedule in May.

Reporter Arthur Foulkes can be reached at 812-231-4232 or