Letter to the editor: Making changes in Norwalk is an uphill battle

By MADONNA JOHNSON | Norwalk

Caucus time is here again, Monday, Jan. 11, at 6 p.m. at the village hall. It’s hard to believe it’s been two years since I was nominated and had the privilege of being elected as board trustee. I have taken this very seriously and have appreciated all the phone calls and in-person visits I have had with residents of the village. Believe me, I have brought all your concerns to the board with some positive results, but it has been an uphill battle.

After receiving several complaints regarding Norcrest, I contacted by phone and email every agency I could think of and finally did get a new housing-authority board formed. Our village board president, Levi Helgren, then wanted to dissolve the housing authority delegate from our list of committees. Fortunately, my fellow board members saw the importance of keeping that position.

Another thing people asked me about was why the minutes of the board meeting were not in the paper. After a few discussions on the subject, it came to a vote 6–1 to put full minutes in the paper. Levi being the one against. Only the motions have been printed because I was told the full minutes are too expensive.

Last summer, there was horse manure on the sidewalk in front of the bank. We called Levi. It stayed there for three weeks until the rain and wind removed it. There is enough dirt in the storm drains, weeds are growing on Main Street, weeds are also growing on the curbs, and our men just paint over them. I have had people ask me what the village truck was doing in Sparta with both maintenance men in it. I checked the time sheets, and one said eight hours in the shop; and the other, water, sewer dailies and shop work. One of the men refuses to clock out for lunch, which has been brought up several times. I have been told by Levi we are not going to micromanage the employees. He doesn’t care.

I have brought up concerns of our parks looking more abandoned than usable. Our parks chairperson Nidia brought pictures of the broken-off posts and debris in the playground at the old school. We as a board voted to put sand in playground area, trim weeds, straighten and paint the posts, and gravel the parking area. None of it got done. It has been brought up that the old stone boat in the village park is causing a dam area by the playground equipment. I have been told by Levi, “it’s on the radar.” I have been asked by several people how that ended up there; I can never get a straight answer.

Last July, Levi spent $320 for the village attorney to write up a raze order for four properties. He contacted the attorney with the village clerk with no prior discussion with the board.

Until the highway commissioner sent us all a copy, we as a board didn’t know Levi sent a rude email to the county highway commissioner after the county gave money from a fund to reconstruct County Highway N instead of giving to Norwalk.

When we decided to close the office for two weeks due to an employee’s positive Covid test, Levi and the board decided 80-hour Covid pay didn’t cover Thanksgiving, so they gave the employees another day off with pay. They also decided to give the part-time employees some pay. I voted no.

Another thing I opposed was selling the tractor backhoe, so we can look at purchasing an end loader for snow removal. Levi doesn’t think two plow trucks with sanders, military loader with a pusher, a bobcat and tractor backhoe are enough.

Raises have also been approved at 3 percent for full time and 2 percent for part-time employees. According to my math, between medical insurance and raises, that will add $6,000 to our budget.

The employees are being very well represented; the taxpayers are not. Levi loves spending money. I don’t understand why we are still having virtual meetings, but the village hall can still be used for the Norwalk Lions Club Halloween, a Santa visit, and Second Harvest and rented out for family parties with little or no restrictions. It’s becoming evident the board president does not want public input to run Norwalk.

These board meetings are more like club meetings than a business meeting. I am very sorry I haven’t been able to change any of this. It’s going to take more than just me to turn it around.

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