Friday, April 30, 1999

Lebanon leaders bicker on bicentennial


Council, planning members at odds

BY RICHELLE THOMPSON
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        LEBANON — A city council member recommended this week abolishing the bicentennial committee, after weeks of controversy over how to mark the city's 200th birthday.

        Councilman Joe McKenzie, chairman of council's parks and recreation committee, proposed putting some of the bicentennial committee's members on the festival board. The committee's sug gestions can be carried out by staff, he said, and the festival board has more experience planning such events.

        Further, the bicentennial committee “has stated to council that the parades and things will take care of themselves,” Mr. McKenzie said in his report. “That has not been true historically, and we are running out of time to develop plans and find sponsors for these events.”

        Bicentennial committee Chairman Gerald Miller said he considers the explanation window-dressing for old-fashioned politicking.

        “I think it's a personal vendetta against us because we support historic preservation,” said Mr. Miller, a business owner downtown. “I was really hoping we could work together as a team, with city council and the whole community,” said Barbara Lincoln, a bicentennial committee member. “In this town, it seems everybody's split on one side or the other. It's a shame they can't get their act together.”

        Formed in March 1998, the seven-member committee was charged with planning the celebration of the city's 200-year anniversary in 2002. The committee's suggestions included building an outdoor amphitheater and converting a downtown block into Heritage Square, a combination of businesses and historic residences, as well as additional parking.

        The future of that block, bounded by Main, Mechanic, Mulberry and Cherry streets, has been central to debates among council members and downtown business merchants. City officials at first sought to tear down one of the historic homes on the block, but later withdrew the request. The city hired a consultant to develop a downtown master plan, with a focus on recommendations for that block.

       



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