Sculpture at Solon Community Center may remain in place after all

SOLON, Ohio — The city council is considering reversing its recent decision to remove and relocate a sculpture that has stood outside the Solon Community Center for nearly 20 years.

A council agenda item on Monday (November 7) would have changed a council ordinance passed on September 19 so that the sculpture remains where it is, rather than being moved to another location.

But earlier on Monday, the council’s safety and public properties committee voted to table the new legislation so more information on cost options could be obtained.

In September, the council authorized the removal of the sculpture because the Nature Stone surface surrounding it is fracturing and posing a safety concern, according to Public Works Commissioner William Drsek.

At that time, the council voted 6 to 1 to have the sculpture – created by artist Solon Charlotte Lees – removed. The sculpture was installed after the council accepted a proposal in 2003.

On Monday, Rich Parker, the city’s director of recreation, told the committee that after a meeting between city officials and Lees, it was determined that the best option for the city would be to leave the sculpture where it stands. finds and repairs the sidewalk that surrounds it.

“After the meeting (September 19), the mayor (Ed Kraus) and I had the opportunity to meet with Charlotte Lees, and we discussed with her what we had proposed, namely to move the sculpture possibly to another place,” Parker said. .

“We came to the conclusion that the best location was really in front of the community center. So I’m here tonight to ask permission to leave the sculpture in place and just fix the walkway around it.

Lees titled the sculpture – constructed of powder coated aluminum – Esprit de Corps. His hope at the time of its creation was that the sculpture would become a recognizable symbol for the city.

Legislative council passed in September would require the city to remove the sculpture and reconfigure the sidewalk into a 9-foot-wide concrete walkway.

Why was the artist not contacted initially?

Ward 3 Councilor Jeremy Zelwin – who led the meeting in the absence of Ward 7 Councilor Bill Russo, who chairs the committee – asked why this discussion with Lees had not taken place before the order was issued. comes to the council for the first time.

“I take full responsibility for that,” Parker said. “We were trying to get things done very quickly (due to the approach of winter).

“Several options were discussed. We thought the option of moving him might be more welcome,” he said.

“Again, after thinking about the project, the best location is really in front of the community center.”

Zelwin said he was confused, noting that “there is a lot of frustration around this piece of art from 20 years ago.”

“I understand we paid $50,000 for this artwork,” Zelwin said. “Is there anything in the original legislation that says the artist can tell us exactly where they need to be, even though that might not be the best for public safety and health and that can be cheaper in terms of maintenance (to move it)?

“What came of that encounter (with Lees) that made us reconsider this was the best place?” he asked Kraus.

Kraus replied, “I think just out of courtesy, meeting the artist. It was her job; she put time and resources into it.

Zelwin asked Kraus if the city had paid Lees for his work to do the sculpture, and Kraus said yes.

“But I think consultation with the artist is always important,” Kraus said. “In hindsight, we should have met her before there was even a discussion about it.

“She’s a resident of Solon; she did it for the community.

Kraus said after meeting with Lees, he and Parker discussed possible options for moving the sculpture. He said two options included Solon Community Park and Solon Arts Center.

“We had a really good discussion with (Lees), and in the end it didn’t seem like viable alternatives,” Kraus said.

Zelwin said part of his reluctance to get the board to approve the amended order is that he thinks it “would set a bad precedent.”

“We really should have talked to him before (it came to the board the first time),” he said. “I don’t like the precedent it sets.”

Kraus replied, “Well, I don’t think you’re going to have tons of situations like this.”

Zelwin said he was also concerned about what would happen if the sculpture itself fell into disrepair and then became a nuisance to the city.

“But if the artist is upset if it becomes a nuisance, don’t we delete it then?” He asked.

Parker said he understands Zelwin’s concern, but the sculpture is currently “in good condition.”

“It’s just the surface underneath that needs to be redone,” he said.

Zelwin said he knows the sculpture is doing well at the moment, but added, “What happens in 10 years?”

“If it’s a nuisance or if it’s a health issue, then we have an obligation; we have orders that protect that,” Kraus said.

Ward 2 Councilor Robert Pelunis – who voted against in September, saying the city should leave the sculpture where it is because it was part of a council-backed public art plan in 2003 – said Zelwin’s argument is that the city paid for it and “should be able to do with it what we want”.

Zelwin agreed and added, “It’s less about the artwork and more about the (surface underneath).”

Pelunis asked if Lees wanted to buy the sculpture back from the city.

“No, we didn’t offer it for sale,” Parker said. “At this point, it’s priceless.”

Pelunis said he doesn’t want the city to spend a lot of money on repairs, but if they’re needed, they should be done.

Zelwin asked about the city’s options for repairs around the sculpture.

“I don’t know if we’re clear what the options are, to be honest,” Parker said.

No warranty on Nature Stone

Pelunis noted that in its TV commercials, Nature Stone offers a “lifetime warranty”.

“Have we looked into this?” He asked.

Parker replied that Nature Stone came out and informed the city that the repairs would not be covered under such a warranty as this is not a residential project.

“You know, we drag snowplows on it, whereas if you have it in your garage, you don’t use a tractor or drag a snowplow on it and stuff like that,” he said. he declares.

Drsek said the city doesn’t know exactly what type of material was under the sculpture at this time.

“I haven’t been back there since we did some exploratory digs, but there may be a huge chunk of concrete there,” he said. “We’ll have to take a look at it (Tuesday) and see exactly what it is.”

Zelwin asked what the chances were that the repairs would be done this year, before winter.

“That’s not happening this year,” Parker said.

With that in mind, Zelwin proposed that the committee table the order, “so that we can determine the cost of each option.”

Drsek said the original estimate to have the sculpture removed was $7,700.

“It was to take it all off and before we knew what was underneath,” he said. “That’s obviously going to change a bit.”

Zelwin asked if the city could get estimates for both the cost of keeping the sculpture where it is and moving it.

“Let’s do it the right way,” he said. “It seems we still don’t have enough information to understand what the costs are to the city.

“So let’s get the costs associated with everything before we move on.” I don’t have enough information to vote (if I have to keep it where it is).

Zelwin pointed out that it has nothing to do with the art or the artist.

Pelunis seconded the motion to file the ordinance, and the motion carried, 2-0.

Pelunis was a council member when the proposal to create and install the sculpture was approved in 2003. He said the cost to the city at the time was around $50,000.

In a September memo to the committee, Drsek said it would be more cost effective to remove the sculpture and replace the “irregularly shaped sidewalk” than to pour new concrete to mirror the original shape and maintain the sculpture.

Drsek said a contractor, Scott’s Services of Aurora, submitted two quotes to replace the existing walkway in front of the community center.

After reviewing the quotes, Drsek determined that it would cost $2,100 less to remove the sculpture and install a 9-foot-wide sidewalk.

The quotes were $6,500 to pour new concrete to reflect the original design and form versus $4,400 to remove the artwork and pour new concrete.

The security and public properties committee was due to meet again on Wednesday (November 9). But that meeting was rescheduled for 5:20 p.m. on November 14.

Learn more about the Sorrow Solon Sun.

Jill E. Washington