The first of three parts of Lakewood Village Trustee Paul Serwatka’s report on the last village board meeting:
Report on Oct 11 Village Board Meeting – Part 1
Reporting on our October 11th village board meeting, there are THREE ISSUES I wanted to call to your attention. In order to keep this from becoming all too lengthy – and to help give each issue its due attention – I will report on this meeting in THREE parts over the next three days.
I hope you will make the effort to stay informed by reading each.
Though this was, by no means the worst, this was another meeting that I believe clearly demonstrates several examples of why our village stands to benefit greatly by replacing many on the current board with new, objective and discerning board members in the next election cycle this April.
Please understand, as I write this, I once again find myself reluctant to send such a negative letter, fearing that I may be viewed by some as a “purveyor of negativity.” But, I remind myself, as I remind you now, that one of the foremost promises I made as YOUR elected TRUSTEE was –
“To provide an entirely new level of truth, transparency and accountability – and to be YOUR eyes and ears at village board meetings and “behind closed doors“”…
No good will come from the “Ostrich Approach’ of burying our heads in the sand in an effort to ignore or avoid conflict/negativity/danger. Ignoring wrongdoings is exactly how bad government thrives!
Issue 1 – Public Comment RE: Lift Station Control Panel Debacle
The meeting started with public comments. The current practice of our board allows residents only to make a brief statement. No questions can be asked and no board members are permitted to respond.
No two-way dialogue is permitted under the current rules that every member of this current board(myself excluded) supports.
I personally do not agree with this practice.
I believe given the size of our tiny community, we can certainly facilitate a portion of our meeting to allow a two-way dialogue between residents and board members, and I believe it should be encouraged, not forbidden!
I am currently the only member of this board who supports this idea and have, in fact, publicly made a motion to allow residents an opportunity to have a brief two-way dialogue, only to have EVERY other board member INTENTIONALLY kill my motion TWICE.
Potential Large Expense – Paying the “pound of cure” vs the “ounce of prevention”
Present to address the board, were a dozen or so Crystal Lake residents whose homes border Lakewood at the corner of Broadway and Oxford in The Gates.
The residents wished to express their extreme concerns over a very large Lift Station Control Panel that was installed by Lakewood contractors, in a very obtrusive location near their homes.
They feel (and I agree) that the location of the panel presents a tremendous eyesore, noise pollution, a foul odor, a driving hazard, and in general, negatively impacts the desirability and perceived value of their homes.
These residents are currently seeking legal counsel in an effort to remedy this situation in a manner they feel is fair and equitable to both the residents and the Village of Lakewood.
I have been to the location of this control panel.
I have spoken with the residents in the vicinity.
I have heard the loud noise.
I have smelled the foul odor and I share in all of their concerns toward safety and the value of their homes.
It was also brought to my attention that in reviewing the plans for this project, the over-all size and dimensions of this control panel were omitted from the plans and drawings.
This, understandably raises some questions, as anyone who has ever requested a permit for a garage/fence/shed/etc knows that this is required information.
In general discussion of examples of the costs involved in different options – a cost of $17,000 to lower the panel 18″ from its approximate 8′ height was mentioned, though this would not resolve anything.
Also mentioned was the potential for Hundreds of Thousands of Dollars to relocate the panel.
President Smith Schedules a Meeting –
President Smith stated that she appreciated their concerns and “had scheduled a public meeting” to discuss this matter, to be held on Thursday, less than 48 hours later.
She went on to state that “due to the Open Meetings Act, only she and one other board member could be present at this meeting and that this board member would be trustee Bev Thomas.
As other board members sat in silence, I interjected with several concerns:
This was the first I had heard of this scheduled public meeting.
I addressed the audience (against the rules) asking if any of them had any prior knowledge of this scheduled meeting.
No residents had any knowledge.
I asked the residents (again, against the rules) if this meeting time/date worked for them and if that provided them sufficient time to notify other concerned residents who may wish to be present.
They responded that this date did not work and that, in fact, many present could not facilitate that date.
Furthermore, they would not have sufficient time to notify other residents and they felt it preposterous that the meeting would have been scheduled so soon, particularly without their being conferred with prior.
Repeatedly Misstating the Rules
I informed President Smith and other board members present, that they were incorrect in their interpretation of the Open Meetings Act (and I suspect they know this).
The Open Meetings Act, in fact, does NOT require that only two board members can be in attendance at any meeting.
This is something President Smith, trustee [Ken] Santowski and other board members continue to state (and I continue to correct) and it is absolutely NOT TRUE!
The Open Meetings Act provides that anytime a “majority of a quorum” is present together (our board is comprised of 7 members – a quorum is 4 – majority of a quorum is 3) at any place and time. They are not to collectively speak as to village business.
All board members absolutely can be in attendance at any location or meeting, but, only two can speak as to village business. The others can listen, observe and take part in non-village related discussion.
Where we stand at this point
The residents expressed their disapproval as to the meeting that had been scheduled and asked:
- Who scheduled this meeting?…
- Who it was scheduled with?… and
- Who determined the time and date?…
The net answer to these questions was that President Smith selected a date and time that worked for her, and in fact, conferred with no one.
She then offered that she did this as a benefit to these residents in an effort to help expedite an outcome for them.
To be blunt: No one bought that!
That meeting was subsequently cancelled and will now be held one-hour prior to our next village board meeting – 6:00 pm on Tuesday, October 25th at Redtail Golf Club.
I will keep you updated!
As I stated above, there are two more, arguably, more concerning issues that I believe are quite worthy of your attention.
I will follow up with each of these issues in the next couple of days.
Please look for them!
Until then, I thank you for your effort to stay informed and as always – Your thoughts, questions and concerns are always welcome and always valued.