BUCKEYE LAKE – Monday night was the final regular Buckeye Lake Village Council meeting for Mayor Rick Baker, who served four years, and Council President Charlene Hayden, who served 10. Both reflected upon their tenure and how the village has changed.
“There’s a renewed sense of pride in the village,” said Baker. “People are proud to live here.” He said nearly 50 uninhabitable houses and structures were demolished during the past several years. Some structures the village demolished through grant money and others came down at private landowners’ hands.
“It was the work of a lot of people,” said Baker Tuesday. “A lot of it was done by the (former mayor Frank Foster) administration, too.” Baker said he is also proud of the new curbs and sidewalks installed along SR 79. “I even did my own house there,” he said, adding he remodeled a home on Hebron Road, partly as an effort to lead by example. The house is currently retail space.
Baker looks fondly upon the village’s completion of its public water distribution system, which included repaving most of Buckeye Lake Village streets. “That was super big,” he said.
“I’m so proud I was able to make (Jimmy Hanzey) chief of police,” said Baker Monday night. He also thanked the Buckeye Lake Fire Department for its efforts. “They’ve been through a lot.”
Baker said Tuesday the most challenging part of his term was dealing with the controversy surrounding the fire department. “Trying to sort through fact and fiction in reference to the fire department,” he said. “Listening to the sides and deciding what’s right.”
A continuing in-depth study starting in mid-August 2012 by The Beacon revealed large gaps in the department’s part-time paid staffing schedule and practices that affect response times and patient care.
Voters refused to renew the village’s fire levy on the first attempt in November 2012, but narrowly approved it on Nov. 5.
If Baker has any regrets about his time in office, it’s that he couldn’t spend more time at the office. “I can’t be in the office all the time,” he said. “I don’t know how I could change that.” Baker said he wishes he could’ve been mayor full-time and the village could use a full time mayor or ad ministrator. “You can’t do it on a part-time basis,” he said, adding that he spent many of his vacation days performing mayoral duties.
Not surprisingly, Baker said the biggest challenge likely to face the next administration is finances. “Money’s always a challenge,” he said. “We had to really be concerned with every dollar we spent.”
Monday night, Baker thanked the village staff and elected officials for their work. “This is a great council,” he said. “We can accomplish more when a council can get along.”
“Most people want to think they have made a mark in the world in some fashion and, or, more importantly made the world a better place for others,” said Hayden. “With that said, I would like to mention some of the ways I feel the village has improved or moved forward during the time I have served as council president. I am in no way insinuating that these accomplishments are mine alone.” She said these accomplishments are a result of mayors, council members, and staff working together for a common goal.
“When I was first appointed to council, some of its members solved their differences by yelling and screaming at each other,” said Hayden. “After a while, most of the unreasonable council members resigned or did not seek re-election leading the way to a more thoughtful group of people who discussed topics until there was a reasonable compromise.” She said she believes the current council members can make decisions that benefit the village and still be respectful to each other.
Monday night, Hayden listed 20 of the village’s accomplishments during the last 10 years, including revising and improving the Personnel Handbook; approving the suggested name change of Ryan Park to Ryan/ Braden Park to recognize resident George Braden’s contributions to improve the park; discussing the possibilities for crosswalk locations on Route 79 after it is repaved; approving the purchase of block watch signs and determining where signs would be placed; approving a village-wide recycling program through Abitibi Bowater Paper Recycling; approving the creation of a Village Web Site, and “the greatest accomplishment of all,” said Hayden, was the installation of the public water system.
“I’m sure this is not a complete list of our accomplishments, but this gives you a good idea how far we have come between the years of 2003 and 2013.”
Hayden continued, “It has been my pleasure to work with each and every one of our great employees, past and present.” She included office and water, street, police, and fire department staffs. “We have a very hard working under-paid staff and each one continues to give the Village their best no matter the situation. We are lucky to have such dedicated employees,” said Hayden.
Hayden said she’s worked with several different councils during her tenure. “I have been very appreciative of the fact that the majority of council members at any one time have supported what is best for the village,” she said. “That’s the way to get things done and move an entity forward. I want to thank the current council members for their service and for supporting what is in the best interests of the village. I truly hope those of you who are remaining on council will help guide the new members in a positive direction.”
Hayden thanked mayors Baker and Foster, as well as residents. “My hope for the future of this village is that mayors, council members, and employees will work together to continue moving our community forward so it serves our residents in the best possible manner,” she said.