Archive for Thursday, March 24, 2005

Memorial, fireworks highlight meeting

March 24, 2005

Sparks flew at last week's action-packed Lansing City Council meeting. The council approved plans for a veterans' memorial, but harsh words were also exchanged between council members.

The council agreed that the city would work with Lansing VFW Post 12003 to build a Lansing Memorial for Veterans. The council determined that the city would be responsible for securing the builder's contract because the memorial will belong to the city after it is built. A committee will handle fund-raising, and Lansing VFW will be responsible for managing the funds.

The council also decided on a tentative location, a plot of land west of the Fire District No. 1 Station. Because that land belongs to the state, Lansing Mayor Kenneth Bernard said he would look into obtaining it to place the memorial there.

The memorial was proposed to the council last month by Lansing veteran Mike Howell.

Howell said he hoped to break ground May 1, which is Loyalty Day and the beginning of VFW's Vietnam Veterans Recognition week. His target date for completion of the memorial is Nov. 11, Veterans Day.

Later in the evening, action heated up. During comments from the council members, Ward 2 representative Andi Pawlowski expressed concerns that Ward 4 representative Harland Russell had misrepresented himself to a parks committee on which both Russell and Pawlowski serve.

Pawlowski said that at one of the committee's meetings, Russell was referred to as an engineer and did not correct the committee member by saying that he is an engineering technician. Professional engineers are licensed in Kansas, while engineering technicians are not. Pawlowski asked that City Administrator Mike Smith e-mail the parks committee to clarify Russell's position.

Russell said it was common in his field for him to be referred to as an engineer. He said he had properly identified himself at the committee's first meeting but said he would e-mail the group to clarify.

Pawlowski said after the meeting that some of the committee members she talked to were surprised when she told them Russell was not an engineer. Russell said Friday that the responses to his e-mail indicated that the members had not been confused.

Russell said he felt "humiliated" by Pawlowski's comments and his chosen profession belittled.

"My experience may not be from college, but it's from the school of hard knocks and a lot of training that my company has given me," he said.

Russell said he attended a technical school in Salina for a year before he began doing surveying work in Lansing. He is now a senior design technician and project manager for George Butler Associates.

When Pawlowski and Russell had finished their discussion about Russell's profession, Pawlowski said she had one more comment to make.

"And this is personal," she said.

Pawlowski said she found remarks Russell had made in e-mails to his supporters in the mayor's race to be demeaning to city staff and the council. She said the e-mails also referred to events that had taken place during executive sessions of the council, which members are not supposed to discuss.

"We can't refute it because we're not supposed to talk about it," she said.

Russell said his e-mails answered questions he received from supporters. He said he didn't think that anything in the e-mails was something he wouldn't tell people over the phone or face-to-face.

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