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  • Writer's pictureTricia Babischkin

Board Packet Review: September 22, 2020

On September 22, there will be another board meeting. So, here I've outlined my review of the board packet as posted on line with my questions in line, in green.

First -- despite the couple of attempts to return to in person meetings (and other municipalities figuring out how to have a combination of in person and remote), it appears that Phil would rather the public not be sitting in front of him right now. So -- we have a remote Zoom meeting.

It is my hope that our CAO who runs the Zoom portion of this meeting can figure out the following: 1) how to start the meeting without kicking everyone waiting to get in out first -- has happened the last several Zoom meetings; 2) how to have all the Trustees on camera and be heard during the whole meeting; 3) how to record the zoom meeting and then be able to provide that recording when requested (better would be to post it online).

Public Comments

Dear President Phil -- historically, our village has acknowledged and frankly welcomed people who have comments in the public forum. When the public has been at its most outraged, the board has traditionally not cut people off or stopped the comments at 30 minutes. While I understand this is your right to keep the meeting moving forward, I find this break in tradition further proof that you'd prefer to do your deals in the backroom and out of the public eye -- your residents are demanding transparency and every move that deepens the divide between transparency and hiding furthers the opinion that this board has no respect for residents.

Consent Agenda:

Includes -- Approval of the minutes from 4 meetings

Approval of Bills, pre-paid invoices, debit activity (See my questions below)

Approval May Financials

Ordiance for a change to the Turnberry Lakes Penalties

I have many concerns here. So, I've tried to organize my thoughts a bit:

Late Financials:

Let's address the elephant in the room. The financials are from May -- this is September. Yes, that's really late. It would be easy to assume that someone isn't doing their job that we have financials so late -- and frankly, they would be right. But it's not the person who got tasked with the financials, it's our CAO. You, see, if you were inclined to go back to 2017, after our Village Manager, Catherine Peterson left followed shortly by the Deputy Village Manager, our then President pushed for a consolidation of roles. Prior to this consolidation we had a Village Manager, a Deputy Village Manager, and a Finance Director (who was part-time and was also a CPA). President Serwatka combined these three positions into one job called the CAO. He first hired a resident to be our CAO and then she left within 60-90 days. After that, CAO Smith was hired and Paul was very quick to claim victory on the savings of the village money in salaries even though Smith gets nearly double what Ms. Peterson made.

Forgiving my brief trip down memory lane, I want to point out that the reason our CAO commands a high salary is because she's supposed to be taking over the duties our former CPA did. Almost instantly upon coming on board, CAO Smith delegated the responsibilities to another staff member. Now, yes, as a resident has challenged me before, she has the right to delegate; but if she were a good manager (or even a competent one) she should have looked that this long-term employees plate and ensured that she had the bandwidth to do the job. She should have ALSO ensured that this employee was appropriately trained to do the job that was formerly held by a CPA.

My point here is -- yes, the financials are late and yes, THAT IS A PROBLEM. But the problem should be focused at the CAO and not to the employee. This is another failure of the CAO to perform her duties -- it has been rumored that our CAO does not know/understand the difference between a debit and credit which might explain why she's not stepping up to the plate to get the financials done. Delegating is fine, but once the financials are late, she should have stepped in to get them done -- instead, she's blaming an over-worked employee.

Questions in the May Financials:

  • There is $2,353.74 that is Transferred out of the General Fund and put into the Capital Fund/Vehicles. The line item has no budget against it and is non-descript in nature. What is this money? Without a budget for it, (on either side of the transaction -- out of the general fund and into the capital fund) I'm questioning the transfer of funds.

  • There are several utility refunds in the bill list -- water, sewer, and refuse -- to about 4-5 people. I've never seen that in the bill lists before, so it seems like something that should be noted?

  • Noticed there were no legal bills booked to the month of May -- seems odd; did our Treasurer notice this missing item in her review? Was this bill paid?

  • Will we be getting a treasurer's report? I'm asking because it is in the IL code that the Treasurer should be making a report no less than monthly to the board -- has anyone ever seen one?

Ordinances in Consent Agenda:

I believe that there should be NO ordinances in the consent agenda. By putting this here, the board is saying we are going to pass laws (which is what these are) without any discussion. Should there have been even the permitted round-robin style discussion with the board, then the board should respect the public enough to explain the need for any ordinance.

Now, with regard to the ordinance itself. From what I read, it appears to correct a typo and change the amount of a penalty from between $750-$1000/day to $75 - $1000/day. This seems like a very large change to not have any explanation. Perhaps our board will explain the reasoning behind this to help the public understand the need for this change --- but to do this, it would need to be pulled from the consent agenda. The board also needs to add guidance as to what is a $75 fine and what would bring about the larger amount.

Discussion Items

  • Discussion on proposed Haligus Road Park

  • Direction to allow Crystal Lake Park District access to Village Property for a soil sample

  • Direction for a survey in anticipation of a property transfer to Crystal Lake Park District

  • Direction for Attorney Smoron to draft a land transfer agreement between Lakewood and Crystal Lake Park District

Assuming these 4 items are actually the same thing -- there are no details or supporting documentation in the packet, so no one can prepare questions or concerns regarding this. My guess is that this is the splash pad that Mr. Berman promised in his op-ed in the Northwest Herald. The Splash Pad that hasn't been discussed in any public forum, but yet he's promised the public that we are going to have this thing. So -- here's my list of basic questions that need to be asked:

  1. What is age group that this park would target? If it is the splash pad that Mr. Berman promised, I'm guessing it will be geared to the pre-school and young elementary ages.

  2. What is the population of Lakewood (and if this were to be Park District Land) within a REASONABLE radius that fall into that demographic and would be using this park?

  3. What's the expected impact on the traffic on Haligus Road? Would we need to add a light?

  4. What other 'attractions' would be offered at this park? What value would it add to the community?

  5. Would this park include extending the bike path along Haligus to get to the park without a car?

  6. What's the cost to the village? Both the cost to build the park and the cost in potential land transfers?

  7. What benefit does this bring all the residents of Lakewood? Does this park add any value to homes? What about homes on the east side of town?

What's missing??

Where are Trustee Comments?

Where are Department Reports?

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