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Letters to the Editor

June 25, 2015
Westfield Republican

Dear Editor,

I was in attendance at the last Westfield Village Board meeting on Monday, June 15th, 2015. Amongst the topics discussed was a request by the Department of Public Works Supervisor and Board of Public Works Assistant director, Ed LeBarron, to proceed with replacing the sidewalk on McClurg Street and implementing the plan to put in place diagonal parking on McClurg Street which apparently was part of a Capital Improvement Plan adopted by the village around 2004. Considering the state of the sidewalk on McClurg, Mr. LeBarron thought that now would be a good time to move ahead with the sidewalk replacement and proposed parking changes. This proposal brought forth a series of questions and concerns by those in attendance. Why would we move ahead with this project when there is another project long overdue that deserves consideration before that: the Main Street parking area that the village owns behind the businesses between North Portage and Market Streets? This parking lot has become a bone of contention between the elected officials in the village and the business owners who rely on that parking lot, especially in the summer months when we have an influx of tourists to our community. It has been noted by more than one business owner that the lot is just a "lawsuit waiting to happen". In my experience, lawsuits are much more expensive than fixing the problem especially when the owner is aware of the problem and fails to rectify it.

Late last summer the mayor called a meeting to address this issue. There were many business owners from Main Street who attended, along with elected and appointed officials. Discussion ensued and a preliminary attempt to start working on some of the problems ended up in the removal of the parking barriers and a plan to create a "corral" for the numerous dumpsters. Nothing else has actually been implemented since that was done just before winter.

The underlying issue with the parking lot, according to Mr. LeBarron, is the drainage, or lack thereof. While the general complaints are about the unsightliness and potential liabilities of the parking lot, the majority of the problem lies beneath the asphalt. Mr. LeBarron has not been able to set aside the funds (approximately $160,000) to do the lot in the many years he has had to work within the tight grip of the 2 percent tax cap and his limited General Fund allotment to try to at least maintain some of our infrastructure in the village. The Water and Sewer funds both have a healthy fund balance, along with a very hefty balance in our Electric Department there are no struggles there - but working within the GF budget has been a real challenge for the DPW. I know that the village can be creative in distributing costs between departments; I have witnessed it many times as a former Trustee.

So, I propose a solution: Since the issue is really with the sewer system and drainage, why does the village not proceed with the 3-phase replacement program which was engineered 10-plus years ago and tap into the Sewer Fund for the vast amount of the expense? The SF is healthy enough to support the projected amount, as Mr. LeBarron has already placed some money aside for the finishing of the lot through his GF allotment and has stated that is the minor expense in the project.

The lot is owned by the village. It is crumbling, unsightly and a hazard. Drainage/sewer is the real issue. Take the money from the Sewer Fund and make our business owners and visitors happy and avoid any potential lawsuits.

Where there is a will, there is a way.

Debra Puckhaber,

Village of Westfield Resident and Citizen Advocate



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