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  • Writer's pictureTricia Babischkin

Unexpected Phone Calls

My Wednesdays post a board meeting have become predicable. I wait until the recording of the meeting goes live on the village's site, I sit down with my notebook and outline what happened and my research begins. Wednesday nights are spent going over the meeting point by point to attempt to separate truth from fiction from fanfare.

This week's review will be a touch late. A little before 11:30am this morning, my phone rang and shockingly, it was Phil Stephan.

Last night, during the board meeting, I spoke not about the long list of open questions I've been asking for months, but a very simple question of why. Why the secrecy; why the half information; why the board, packed with 'yes-men' never double checked some of the outrageous things that have come up. One thing I called out is that more than once, Phil said he was 'trying to work with' me; but he canceled the only time he had scheduled to sit down and chat.

So, yes, I was stunned that Phil called me out of blue. When past residents had challenged him, he had our CAO schedule a meeting to talk -- but I guess, I get the surprise call instead. Over the next 1 hour and 10 minutes, we spoke of many topics -- well, mostly he spoke and I attempted to get a word in.

Below is an outline of my notes from the call with details and follow-ups. However, in between telling me that I'm trying to create a "lynch mob," Phil asked if I'd "agree that talking is better than throwing out your half-truths. You don't know what you don't know." He suggested that I should just call him -- and in that same breath said, "I get there'd need to be a level of trust." I said, "Phil, I completely agree with you -- I can't trust you. You have given me half-information, treated me poorly when I have asked the right questions, and frankly, unless I can prove it with documentation, I can't believe you." To this there was no response.

The thing is, it's not just me asking questions. He, and this board, owes the community real answers. Instead of calling me to talk one on one; he needs to create an open forum to be asked questions and to give full answers. The board needs to be there too -- especially any of them seeking re-election.

Some of the Topics covered during the call:

  • COVID -- again they are doing everything they can; following guidelines; and asked if I was aware that the guidelines come out weekly? I responded that I was not the resident asking about COVID protocols -- but that no resident asked for the village to violate HIPAA -- but we are asking if the proper notifications were made to County Health, the board of elections, and the outings that were in the building? There was no answer.

  • RedTail Business Plan -- Phil admitted it's not an actual plan; but just (his words) "Common Sense changes to increase profitability" He told me that secret to RedTail's profitability will be that all food served is "food that fits in your hand" and smaller cups for beer. I found the "hand food" statement interesting; because apparently before this current team came on board, he was pushing for a pub style menu and the then manager pushed back.

  • The Silo Cap (and other repairs) -- while we talked about RedTail money spent that should not have been spent; I mentioned the $30K for the silo cap. Yes, I know that it was a whole Silo repair project; but the cap was the item insurance paid for. Insurance paid about $9,500, but all the repairs cost $30K -- apparently it was repairing two silos and some foundation work to barn. He does say that these repairs will last a long time -- when I asked about a maintenance plan to make sure they last that long, he had nothing.

  • Dam and Spillway -- Phil still insists that the dam is completely fine as is for 50 years. He did agree that it probably should be inspected -- since it hadn't been since 2010 or 2008 (depending on the qualifications of the inspector). But he promised to give the PW department direction to clear the earthen dam of the brush, trees, and debris. Winter will be an excellent time to do that, since the leaves will be off the trees and brush --- so, I'm hoping we see this done by spring.

  • Lake Treatment -- He insists the lakes are being treated. I said, great, I want to see the treatment reports -- I asked for them under FOIA when they were not produced in your promised packet. So, why don't I have them? Per Phil, EAM looks at what each of the four lakes needs weekly and either treats or doesn't treat the lake as needed. If this is the case, then Lake 2 must not have needed anything per my sources -- but I'd like to confirm with the treatment reports. I can confirm that due to Lake 2 being the deepest lake it is universally considered the healthiest.

  • The Irrigation Well -- per Phil, he agrees that the well will do nothing to affect Lake 1, not lake levels or algae or weeds. He thinks my math doesn't include evaporation and he shared that the timing of when the well will be turned on would be the month of July (just prior to the dry season) because the well won't be able to be used in the drought (lack of ground water) in August. If you are counting this is the third or fourth different stated timing I've heard directly from Phil. First it was to run only in times of draught; next, per an email, it was a to run beginning in the early summer; at the review meeting at Turnberry, he said the well would be pumped in early spring to raise the lake levels; and today he told me July.

  • The lights and driving range structure at Turnberry -- despite the structure being built in May without a permit, Phil said that no one complained about it and Turnberry had told him about it as a 'temporary' structure. He said all the right things about the lights being awful and that they have to go down a legal path now; but that there is a variance being requested of the P&Z board. He also indicated that the board would approve the recommendation of the P&Z board. What he also said repeatedly was that he 'can't remove the lights himself' and he 'can't make a private business remove the lights.' I got no answer on the fines that should have been applied for both building without a permit and for turning on the lights after the C&D. He also said that the lights were only on one night and that he personally called everyone to let them know before hand -- it was part of an evaluation of the lights with him, the CAO, the chairman of P&Z, and another trustee. I have heard from residents that the lights were on more than that one night in the past week.

  • Roads in general -- He went into length about that we do pothole repair with a Hot Fix versus cold, which is a more permanent solution and honestly, there was something about how amazing the new stripes are -- by the time we got to this, I admit to being a bit lost in the topic changes, the diversions and left turns.

  • Hampshire Lane -- this was the primary reason he wanted to talk to me. Apparently, my post yesterday regarding the B&W recommendations were upsetting. I was only sharing the review of the recommendations from B&W, which they cited as a reason to terminate our agreement with the village. I have spoken to residents in the Gates, I get that no one wants curbs and gutters; but yet, there is a need to solve the water draining. What he told me was that he was leaving the engineering study from HRGreen for me to review and compared to the B&W study. I had the packet picked up and received two 11x17 sheets of paper. Hardly the engineering study I was expecting. But I did learn a few things -- the important thing is that what B&W studied was not exactly what was done. So, while yes, the road is inverted and yes, the sewer grates are in the middle of the street, the post rain ponding on Broadway is part of the plan. Phil says that Hampshire does not connect to the 24" storm line that runs down the center of Broadway to Crystal Creek. One of the keys to the B&W recommendation to not do this is that it assumes this connection. An open question would be if the village asked B&W to consider not to tie to the existing line? What I took from my conversation is that what was installed in Hampshire is not what B&W reviewed -- why is that? Surely this isn't a engineering project review:

Phil says his plan is to roll out the Hampshire Lane success to Warwick next. He gave no time line, nor any long term plan, except to say that the reason Broadway can't be completely ground down and repaved is because with every street he inverts, he will have to cut an "H" section at the junction of Broadway -- so there's no reason to do that to brand new road. So, per Phil, Broadway will be repaved in sections based on the road he's inverting.

So, I spent a wee bit of my afternoon looking at inverting municipal roads. Phil claims that Chicago did this for their alleys and it solved all their problems. I found this fascinating study on Chicago's use of permeable surfaces in the alleys from 2010; but I can't comment on alleys in Chicago -- but I did find an interesting road-geek (said with all respect to all geeks everywhere) site with a comment chain on inverting roads. Apparently, general consensus is that inverting is most common in alleys and parking lots, not roads. But universally, the recommendation is that the road be concrete, not asphalt (due to the durability factor along the seam) and if the whole road can't be concrete, a center line gutter in concrete would be appropriate -- which if we get super honest, would likely not look all that great either. But per this site, inverting roads is becoming increasingly an unused practice. Finally, this study is from an engineering firm in Florida, where they don't have the freeze thaw cycle that we have, but many of the neighborhoods have no curbs. I call this out because despite also having a high water table, Florida's soil is sandy and allows for quick drainage -- which is actually the argument for the curbless roads. The idea from this article is that water is the enemy of asphalt, so get it off the roads as fast as possible. If you follow the link, you'll see an example of the concern of the center line of an inverted road -- and that's in FL without ice and snow and salt.

The net on Hampshire's inverting is that I don't know if it was the best possible solution. I don't know if it's the fix to all the issues, but I do know it was cited as a reason for B&W to terminate the agreement with our village. I would have loved to have seen the same level of detail in the engineering study on the road they put in by HRGreen to compare to what B&W put out -- but that was not provided.

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