Published on -11/5/2012, 2:36 PM
At the Oct. 11 Hays City Commission meeting, Robert Wickman, a 74-year-old lifelong Hays citizen addressed the city commissioners about the proposed downtown pavilion. Mr. Wickman manages a farmer's market at Orscheln Farm and Home in Hays. He told commissioners none of the farm vendors he does business with would use the proposed downtown pavilion because of their concerns for customer safety, parking and train noise. He also suggested a better option would be to rent one of Chuck Comeau's restored properties in the downtown area, thus saving taxpayers more than a quarter-million dollars.
Commissioner Henry Schwaller responded by asking Mr. Wickham if he was being sarcastic, by trying to insult Mr. Comeau. Mr. Wickham responded "no" to this obvious try at intimidation. Following that exchange commissioners Kent Steward and Schwaller ask several questions in an attempt to further demean and belittle the comments Mr. Wickham made on behalf his fellow vendors.
Not one word of Mr. Wickham's appearance at the meeting was mentioned in this newspaper. Just comments of commissioners who continue to put on a charade that the Hays Downtown Development Corp. is not affiliated in any way with them. Schwaller is not only the treasurer, but also a board member of HDDC. When Commissioner Barb Wasinger asked the two executives from HDDC, one of whom is also a board member, if they had met with their board since the last meeting (this asked with Commissioner Schwaller sitting two seats to her right), I realized how far these commissioners will go to get their own agenda. The executives said they had not met yet; I'm guessing they forgot to make reservations at Professor's Steakhouse, where they have had meetings in the past.
I had brought up Commissioner Schwaller "conflict of interest" in a letter to the HDN Reader Forum and also emailed commissioners about this many times in the past. Commissioner Schwaller responded to one of my emails and stated he would not discuss or vote on matters of funding for the HDDC. He did not keep his word. The city attorney was present at the meeting, at least physically -- reading a digital pad in his hand and never saying a word.
You can see how much influence average citizens like myself and Mr. Wickham have on the way our tax money is used -- zero.