A new Leadership Warren County project could brighten up one of the busiest intersections in the City of Warren.
During city council's monthly meeting last Monday, City Manager Nancy Freenock reminded council of a joint project between Leadership Warren County and the Rotary Club that would install a park at the corner of Pennsylvania Avenue and Market Street.
"Part of that was a mural," she said. "(The) Leadership Warren County project group (is) ready to move forward" on the mural.
Proposed Design For Downtown Mural
The original motion authorizing the project in January required that a mural design be brought back to council for approval.
Bill Thompson, representing the Leadership Warren County group working on this project, said that Janelle Turk, a Warren native and teacher in the Bradford School District, "painted the mural to present for city council." A scale model was provided for council review.
Council did suggest a couple of changes to the proposal.
"In the final (design), the American flag will be higher than the other three flags," Councilman John Lewis asked, citing it as a "courtesy to the flag." Lewis also suggested that the Welcome to Warren banner be moved to a place where it is more legible.
"I think you have a beautiful design," Councilman Sam Harvey said. He asked City Solicitor Andrea Stapleford if council has the "right to approve art."
"I don't think it's in our power to control content," he said, especially if the mural is being paid for privately and being painted on a private building.
"That was one of the conditions of the motion," Stapleford said.
"It's in the sign ordinance," City Planner David Hildebrand said.
"I think courtesy is the essence of it," Mayor Mark Phillips noted.
"If the ordinance is not content neutral, then it is not constitutional," Harvey claimed.
"The original rendering was questionable... so this was a kind of collegial effort," Councilman Dr. Howard Ferguson said.
Freenock asked who would be responsible for maintaining the mural.
Thompson said that Leadership Warren County will solicit funds for the maintenance of the mural. He said that they also need to solicit bids for the painting of the mural, as well. "There's some issues we can tweak on this," he said.
The motion was approved unanimously with one member, Harvey, abstaining, due to concerns regarding whether council has content authority.