Members clash at Warsaw Council

Last Thursday’s council meeting took an unexpected turn when Warsaw officials clashed over town interests in a discussion that almost led to one council member walking out.

On Aug. 8, Mayor Mark Milstead addressed confusions elicited by Council member William Washington over a logo that was used on the sign for the town park.

At the last meeting, Washington expressed his understanding that the logo he designed was to represent the identity of the town through its use on websites, stationery and letterheads, and not just on the park sign.

“I’m really confused to how we arrived there, especially when I was on the quote-unquote committee,” said Washington.

Council member Randy Phelps, however, shared Milstead’s understanding that the principal motivation of Washington’s committee was to develop a park sign, which then led to the subject of branding the town.

Phelps cautioned against deciding on a brand that went “against the grain” of the Warsaw-Richmond County Main Street Program.

“If we don’t partner them very closely in anything we talk about, whether it be a logo or anything, we’ll make a big mistake,” said Phelps. “We have a gem of a program, a bunch of good citizens, money and time already spent and we should not forget what we have.”

In commenting on town branding, Milstead said he was happy with the outcome of Washington’s park sign, but did not feel it was appropriate for letterheads or the sides of police cars, which had been suggested in earlier discussions.

Milstead also questioned if Washington intended to replace the town seal with the logo.

Vice Mayor Paul Yackel, however, pointed out that the sign was designed specifically for the police department.

“It wasn’t done to be put on stationery. If it was on your uniform or on your car, it looks like an official badge…but if you see it on paper it doesn’t look very good,” Yackel said.

“I’ve nothing against branding. I don’t see it as a replacement for the seal that we use in the police department, but it could be something that maybe we can use for stationery and…other things that we do here in town,” Yackel added.  “I’m not ruling out what [Washington] has come up with.”

Washington expressed his understanding that the seal was the police department’s logo, and that he had no intention of replacing that with the town logo.

“I’m talking about public image and the value that [Warsaw residents] see in the place you live, and you’ve got to start somewhere to evolve people’s perception of how we take ourselves seriously and how we want to present ourselves,” Washington responded.

“I know you know about this,” Washington told Milstead. “It’s a struggle for me to understand why you’re not on board.”

Milstead refuted that he was, but said that making the decision right now to use the logo on everything they did would be a mistake.

“If we’re going to do that, all eight of us [on council] need to vote on that, not the committee,” said Milstead. “That’s my opinion. You guys can vote against me if you want.”

Washington began to say he thought he brought the logo to the meeting for the purpose of using in town branding, but Milstead stressed to Washington he had told him before that the logo would be used on the park sign and nothing else.

“But you didn’t hear me. You didn’t listen,” Milstead told Washington. “Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate your exuberance, your energy and your enthusiasm, but you chose to hear what you wanted.”

Milstead, however, felt that any attempt to rebrand Warsaw would “go much deeper than just one committee” and require community input.

“I’ve owned franchises for 18 years, and I can tell you how important that is to franchises,” said Milstead.  “I worry about the color of my trucks, the decal locations on my trucks, how my employees answer the phone [and] the answer service after 5 p.m, so branding and logos is not just simply…about the sign.

“To be honest with you…I’m happy to deal with it if you guys want to, but I’ve got a lot of other things I want to get done,” Milstead told council. “Unless this is really [everyone’s] desire to get done right now, I’d rather work on the park, sidewalks, the Family Dollar and…other things I’ve got floating around in my head right now.”

Washington said the logo was the third project on which he had spent time and money only to have the product “sharp-shot” by council.

“The detail is I’m about to step out because I feel disrespected,” Washington said hotly. “Every time I put my heart and soul into something…for some reason, it gets flipped around and you don’t want the product [I came up with] anymore.”

Milstead replied he did not see an issue of respect.

“We’ve got eight of us here and we all have to agree on something,” said Milstead. “I’m sorry…you’ve got that kind of perception.”

In two separate follow-up interviews on Friday, both Milstead and Washington confirmed that Milstead contacted Washington following the meeting to ensure there were no hard feelings or offenses taken.

“If I had to do it over, we would have done it one-on-one [instead of during the meeting],” said Milstead, who praised Washington for his creativity and said that debates were a “healthy” sign of government.

“I don’t expect all eight of us to agree on things all the time,” said Milstead, adding he would be concerned if they did.

“We just disagreed on that one topic,” Washington said. “Outside of that, we’re good friends.”

In other town business, council approved the Durban Development final site plan for the Family Dollar on the corner of Court Circle and Richmond Road.

Additionally, council approved the C-3 zoning category for Warsaw with a minimum requirement of 5 acres for each potential zoning district.

Posted on Thursday, August 15, 2013 at 9:15 am