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  • Writer's pictureTricia Babischkin

Fact Checking Lakewood

During public comments last night one of our residents mentioned that Lakewood needs a fact checker. There are days I feel like I'm part self-appointed fact checker and part investigative reporter. So, while I do my standard board meeting recap, let's see if we can review the actual facts behind the claims that Phil keeps making.

New Trustee appointed.

In a move that shocks no one, Dan Alexander is appointed to the board. In the past 10 months, he's served at one meeting of the P&Z board and made three public comments -- all of them have been regarding speeding in his neighborhood because he's concerned about the children playing in the street.

What was shocking in this move is that Phil publicly aannounced that Trustee Amy Odom was excluded from meeting with and interviewing her new fellow Trustee because she has sued the village. What I find interesting is that Ms. Odom sued the village in late August for Injunctive Relief with then Trustee Bryan Younge because both have been repeatedly denied requested information. So, this has been going on for months, was reported in the NW Herald; but now Phil is using it to exclude Trustee Odom from her duties as Trustee. I'm not a lawyer, but one would think that admitting to actively doing what you are being accused of doesn't appear to be a good legal move. I know the court date is coming and it should be interesting to see what happens when a judge hears exactly what Phil said as to why he didn't include Trustee Odom in the process.

Fact Check #1: One of the things Phil mentions is that Trustee Odom filed a PAC Complaint and it was denied.

Investigation of Facts: Trustee Odom filed a PAC complaint on August 25, 2020 because she was being denied access to executive meeting sessions for 6/9/2020 and a recording of a RedTail employee walking out on 7/23/2020. The PAC responded that they review incidents of FOIA and OMA violations and as the video of a RedTail employee walking out was not FOIA'd (remember the whole thing Phil says about not FOIAing -- this is why), it is outside their office's scope. HOWEVER, the denied access to the Executive Session recording is actually an OMA violation that the PAC did review. Per the letter, on September 16, 2020, the PAC reached out the village and informed them that they were required to give Trustee Odom access to the recording. The PAC then confirmed on 10/8/2020 that this occurred and thus closed the complaint.

Conclusion: Partially True. Of the 2 issues, Trustee Odom raised; the PAC said 1 was valid and required the village to comply and 1 was outside their purview. The latter is not an indication that this is not an issue; just that it doesn't fall within the PAC's scope. Additionally, it should be noted that I've confirmed with the PAC that there have been 14 validated complaints deemed to have merit this year against the village. Fourteen seems like a large number, to me.

Editorial Comment: Working with people you disagree with is a requirement of politics. If you don't understand this or are not willing to work together, you have no business being in politics. What I've seen repeatedly with the majority board and our Village's administration is the attitude that if you don't agree and rubber stamp everything they want to do; you are against us and must be destroyed, ignored, or demeaned. This is at the very core of what is wrong with the current state of our village. If residents can't speak out, if Trustees can't discuss and even argue, if employees can't challenge; then how is this village not a tiny dictatorship where 1700 homes and 3700 people are at the mercy of one man and his 5 minions?

Phil makes many statements before Public Comments.

Fact Check #2: At 4:08 minutes, Phil comments on the dam and spillway. He says that he has a letter from former Village Manager Catherine Petersen that states that the last time the dam and spillway was inspected was 2015 and the repairs made extend the life of the dam by 50 years. He then goes on to "so we are good until 2065, then."

Investigation of Facts: Per the documents provided by the village (as part of Phil's don't FOIA, I have a packet), I have the letter from Ms. Petersen. The yellow sighted section was not added by me.

Please note the exact sentence above the yellow highlight: "An inspection of the dam or weir was a conducted by Baxter & Woodman in October of 2010, with recommended repairs completed shortly after." I have requested the actual 2010 inspection, but I've not heard back. I do have an inspection report from 2008, that has recommended repairs. It would NOT be illogical to believe that the inspection was in 2008 and the repairs were completed in 2010; but I'd like to have firm confirmation on that. Until then, we will all have to agree that the last time the dam was inspected was 2010 -- not 2015 as Phil claimed. If you'd like to read the inspection report, I have the narrative here.

2008 Dam Inspection
Download PDF • 4.64MB

Additionally, Phil said that the repairs "extended the life of the dam by 50 years --- so we're good." But if you review the 2008 inspection report and recommendations, one of the requirements is to have a maintenance plan -- and this outlines the required maintenance for each section of the dam with an inspection schedule. While the inspection does not explicitly say there should be an annual inspection, it does call out a need for routine maintenance and inspections. Paul Ruscko (then director of Public Works had asked the board for $3,000 to build such a plan with IL Department of Natural Resources. Again, I've asked the village to produce the plan and the logs. I hope to hear soon if these exist and I'll update with my findings.

Conclusion: FICTION. Despite the repeated times that Phil claims this letter states that the last time the dam was inspected was 2015, it just does not. Additionally, Phil has produced no documented evidence that the dam has been maintained per the recommendations in the inspection from 2008 and as such, claiming we are good is wishful thinking.

Fact Check #3: At 4:48 minute mark, Phil states that the aerators are still in the lakes, but they are not used because they make the algae situation worse because they increase the surface area of the water.

Investigation of Facts: In my piece on the irrigation system, I said that the aerators were removed, I was incorrect -- the parts that are in the lakes are still there. What I've been told is that the compressor on Lake 2 was removed. I can not confirm this except through verbal confirmation.

That said, I did research on the algae claim regarding aerators. Imagine my surprise when I was googling this and found this case study from Illinois Lakes Management Association on our very lakes explaining how the aeration system was in fact a contributing factor to reducing the costs of lake maintenance. It lists that we were very happy with this seven years after it was proposed and installed. So, if that's the case, why again are the aerators the wrong answer to help reducing lake maintenance costs?

Additional information that I've learned in this research, aerators are not a miracle cure, but as the case study says, it is a piece to helping maintain the condition of the lakes. From what I understand the aerators work best on deeper lakes because they reduce the stratification of the water, which will make Lake 1 always the most difficult lake to maintain as it is the most shallow. This outlines the pros and cons to aerators in our lakes well -- they seem to contribute to the overall health of the lakes, but are not a single cure to the issues we face.

Conclusion: Partially False. Yes, it is true that I used the wrong word in trying to describe what is missing from the system. However, it is equally true that Phil's statement that the aerator's make the algae problem worse is false when it comes to our village's lake.

Fact Check #4: At 6:17 Phil states, "the lakes have never looked better."

Editorial note: I can't confirm that this statement is a fact or fiction, but I must ask -- if this is true, that the lakes have never looked better, then why again are we drilling a well that Phil has stated will improve the water quality of the lakes? If what's being done is working, then what problem are we trying to solve with the well? When the algae/weed issue is pushed on, the residents I know who live on the lakes go back to the level of the lakes. When asked, it appears that these past two dry seasons have been the worst in recent memory of the lake levels being down. So, I ask -- were these past two years drier than prior years? According to the National Weather Service 2019 ranks 3rd in the rainiest year from 1871 - 2019. What was more interesting is from March to October, we have averaged about 40 inches of rain every year. In fact 2017-2019 have varied less than 1/10th of an inch in rain fall. So, I'm thinking that we've not had particularly dry summers.

Rumor has it that the pumps that drive the irrigation system at Turnberry have not been turned on -- it's been observed that the lakes on Turnberry's Golf Course are full of water when our lakes have been down -- so it does make one wonder why?

Conclusion: Inconclusive

Fact Check #5: At minute 8:14, Phil states that I have claimed that RedTail is '$300,000 in the red' is completely false and that the financials for RedTail are in the board packet.

Investigation of Fact: There were no RedTail Financials in the board packet for October 27th's meeting.

I have not stated that RedTail is $300,000 in the red. What I said in this post, is that prior to Phil's involvement and CAO Smith's hiring, RedTail had cash of $442,000 and at the start of this fiscal year, RedTail had a cash balance of -$163,000. That is a swing of nearly $300,000. Additionally, I stated that since Phil's installment as President, RedTail has had exactly 3 months of positive cash balances. These numbers were pulled directly from the financials that have appeared in the board packets dating back into 2016.

What I want an answer to from Phil and the board, is what is the plan to ensure that RedTail goes above the the reserves and stays there -- and no "we have a business plan" is not good enough; especially in light that RedTail was only budgeted to make $28,000 this year:

This is directly from the end of year financials compared to the budget for 20-21.

In the packet that Phil provided at Village Hall, he included the projected cash flow for RedTail, as his proof that RedTail is not in the red.

This is the projected cash flow report with Actuals for May and June filled in. But there was something I found super interesting when I looked at this. If you look at the Capital Expenditures Line, you will see that in August there is an estimate of $1,120 and in September as estimate of $13,900 for a total of $16,020 -- against a budget of $49,317. Well, I wondered about that -- because our village budgets all the leases for the Golf Course under Capital Expenditures -- and per the budget that the board approved, those leases totaled $49,317. Assuming we should expect to pay those leases -- what's the $16,020 for? Nothing else was budgeted in capital expenditures:

Phil then turned the conversation over to Kenny, RedTail's golf course manager who spoke about revenue per round -- and he gave some interesting statistics. He said that Food & Beverage profits were up 400% and that last year $/round was $28 and this year is was $42. So, I fact checked this:

June 2019's Financials show this:

June 2020's Financials show this:

This is comparing the same periods. Fiscal year to date, Food & Beverage is $0.62 less than prior year to date. Now, granted this is revenue, not profit; but I think if the difference is really the margins -- then why is revenue down year over year? Also, Pro Shop is down -- the difference is actually in the revenue per round of golf -- did we change the cost structure? Are we offering fewer discounts? Perhaps the pandemic has shifted the demographics of the players and we have fewer rounds being played by seniors at a reduced rate. I'll be watching this one -- I've said often, I want RedTail to succeed. I believe it has the potential to succeed -- I don't think Phil has the business experience to guide this.

Conclusion: False and disturbing. Phil obviously doesn't understand my point about the money for RedTail. Let's see where this year goes -- keep in mind, with the pandemic, there's more people on the golf course than ever before -- there were 1,000 more rounds played to date on the end of June financials than prior year -- so even with the changes in year to date numbers, it's going to be a good year for RedTail, despite Phil's intervention.

Fact Check #6: Turnberry's Driving Range Lights. During Public Comments, the Turnberry Property Association President commented on the lights on the driving range; he asked for Cease & Desist from the village along with asurances that the lights would be removed . Phil stated that in the packet there would be the C&D and the citation for the violation of village code that HR Green issued over the weekend and that Turnberry has a permit submitted with HR Green.

Investigation the Facts: In the packet was this letter from HR Green to Turnberry:

When I was in Village Hall this morning, I asked about the citation that Phil told us was submitted. The response was sent to me in email stating: "HRGreen Zoning Code Enforcement letter (they did not receive a formal citation),"

Conclusion: Half True. Phil made it sound like more was done over the weekend; but it appears that first steps have been taken. Now, what Phil didn't promise was that the lights would be removed. Keep in mind the structure itself didn't have a permit until it was completely in place. I have no record of any village imposed penalties for building without a permit.

In closing -- I'll come back to more of this; as this meeting was so full of statements that need to be fact checked. So I'll stop with one of my public comments -- which Phil was kind enough to interrupt and attempt to downplay. I have no way of confirming if the few people in Village Hall were all rolling their eyes at me; but maybe if he spent less time shuffling papers and ignoring what I'm asking; he could answer the simplest question -- when was the last time you were on RedTail's FaceBook page? Until today -- this is what it looked like:

Again, why did we promote a UK site for nearly 2 months and not our golf course? I wonder if we will ever have the full story on how these posts got through.

But I'm happy to announce it appears RedTail has begun to remove the random UK Golf-Monthly ads that have been appearing since late August. So, maybe after months of not bothering to look at their social media, they understand that some things do need to be monitored and maintained -- like dams that hold water in our lakes.

Phil wants to believe that I 'make stuff up as I go along' -- but in fact, I have done a ton of research and I know the facts. He spouts half-truths and pure falsehoods and thinks if he says them often and loud enough it makes them true. It doesn't work that way.

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29 ott 2020

Thank you for mentioning the lights on the Top Tracer at Turnberry. Not only are they against the Village Code, I believe that the lights and the Top Tracer that support them are in violation of the neighborhood covenants. I very much want the golf club at Turnberry to succeed, but the addition of the Top Tracer is not appropriate in the center of a residential neighborhood.

Mi piace
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