I can’t help but comment on the ‘decade of accomplishment’ outlined during last week’s Buckeye Lake Village Council meeting.
The village has been the lucky recipient of literally millions of dollars in federal grants. Children and grandchildren nation-wide will be paying the bill for many years to come. Sadly, due to poor local management and lack of oversight, we have not been good stewards of these unprecedented gifts.
Our almost brand new water distribution system has been plagued with leaks due to poor installation practices and our failure to enforce contract specifications. Numerous leaks have already been fixed and at least 13 fire hydrants were hand dug to correct valve problems. The contractor had to repair a major leak soon after installation near Taco Bell. This summer another major leak was detected in the same area that is wasting tens of thousands of gallons per month. Council members have now increased water rates, but this leak still hasn’t been fixed. Water department workers have received raises and additional equipment, including a mini track hoe, has been purchased. Why haven’t these resources been used to fix the leak?
The street paving project was even a bigger failure. Just a couple of days into the project, The Beacon first privately warned the mayor that the contractor was ignoring critical specifications and industry best practices. Public warnings followed yet critical contract specifications like clean surfaces, tack coats and asphalt thickness were routinely ignored. One prominent village official even praised the contractor’s work, damaging any efforts to seek restitution. The result is the growing potholes and cracked pavement all over the village.
When I was on council (2001-04), we recruited a local farmer to plant crops on the village’s five acres (now the water tower site) on Mill Dam Road. This saved the village thousands of dollars in gasoline, labor costs and wear and tear on equipment for mowing. Once again, the water distribution system contractor was allowed to ignore contract specifications and use the five-acre site as a dumping ground for broken up concrete and asphalt, and anything else uncovered when excavating for the water lines. Thanks to all the debris buried there, that same farmer isn’t willing to risk damaging his equipment so now taxpayers have to pay for mowing. It is now costing us money that could have been spent elsewhere.
Planning wasn’t one of our strong points during the decade either. We’re finally going to address storm water after the streets were repaved instead of dealing with it first. A few years ago, a professionally landscaped flower bed was installed in front of village hall paid for partly by donated funds from State Farm Women’s Association and our local taxes. Now another grant has come along and the expensive flower bed has been ripped out. We seem to forget that grants don’t fall out of the sky – they come from taxes paid by us. We should spend them as responsibly as our local tax dollars.
In the next decade, I sincerely hope we can do better in managing and spending your tax dollars. Oversight and accountability is essential to make the best use of our limited resources. Finally, criticism is part of public service. Demonizing the messenger instead of listening to the message is another practice that needs to change. I welcome your suggestions or criticism.
Peggy Wells, Council Member Elect