Who could possibly have issues with a project like extending a road to an elementary school located in a residential area in the interest of public safety? Franklin Alderwoman Kristen Wilhelm has shepherded this effort, even recruiting young Boy Scouts to attend meetings and plead with city leaders to approve extending Marquette Avenue to Pleasant View Elementary School.
In a recent e-newsletter Wilhelm wrote “Since the school was built, many subdivisions have surrounded the school, creating additional traffic into the once-calm neighborhoods.” Early in the Franklin Common Council’s debate on the matter on Monday Mayor Steve Olson interjected.
“This is precisely why you just don’t go ahead with it. We have no clue what it’s going to cost and what we’re going to do. Once we get that together then we can make a decision. But this is not a good way to spend taxpayers’ money,” said Olson. Aldermen Mark Dandrea and Dan Mayer also expressed concern about the lack of specifics regarding cost and project components.
The council voted 4-2 to kill a motion by Wilhelm to move ahead with the road project that included some angry discussion. Wilhelm and John Nelson voted in support. Aldermen Dandrea and Mayer along with Steve Taylor and Mike Barber voted no.
Wilhelm accused the council of doing anything it could to pick the project apart. Addressing the audience Wilhelm referred to Kayla’s Playground, Franklin’s very popular all-inclusive park, asserting it was built in three months at a cost of more than $1 million.
“And now we can’t provide you access to take traffic out of your neighborhoods?”
Before the council vote Mayor Olson again brought up the issue of financing.
“I spent almost 40 minutes on the phone at the Dallas airport with Alderwoman Wilhelm telling me how the city ought to pay a third of it and now all of sudden we’re doing 100%,” said Olson.
Wilhelm immediately objected, calling Olson’s comments “misleading” to a roomful of citizens.
“You just don’t want to help the people that you represent. This is wrong,” said Wilhelm.
A clearly agitated Alderman Steve Taylor said Wilhelm was being “insulting” and criticized Wilhelm’s tactics.
“Not once, not once going back to 2008 have I ever had to have people show up on my behalf on an issue,” said Taylor. “I never had to pull up Scouts to speak on my behalf. I never played these type of political games, to play these games, which everybody knows it. You want to ram something down here instead of let’s figure this out.”
Things got so testy Wilhelm stormed out of the room thinking her request for a recess had been in order. It was not. She returned shortly saying she needed to speak to constituents and get a drink.
The council did agree to await the decision on the city’s request for a government grant to help fund the project. When the decision is made the council could revisit this issue at that time.