Members of the community, as you are being called upon to sign a petition to relieve us from our positions, there are a few things that should be looked at first, so the true clarity of the situation can be obtained.In the years that (former village board chairman James) Bliss has been in that position, there are, in our opinion, some unnecessary expenditures that happened: a road grader was purchased to the tune of $132,000; a roll-off truck for $42,000; roll-off containers for $30,000; a track hoe for $27,000, and a new crew cab pickup for $30,000. These purchases were all made between 2014 and 2016. We believe these purchases were made without the community’s input and were completely unnecessary expenditures in the budget, not to mention the purchases did not follow proper protocol. In the last seven years, Bliss allowed $20,000 annually in employee overtime. Finally, employees were given 100% of their chosen premium health care benefits at the expense of the community.
Now, in the petition that you will be asked to sign, it will say that we are not good stewards of the budget, but what is not being said in this petition is that we have done in only a short time to fix the financial situation that we believed was in complete disarray when we stepped in.
This fiscal year, Sutherland is poised to save $1.5 million on the budget, due to the work that has been put in. We have studied the budget and made cuts of what we believe to be unnecessary spending in areas such as employee overtime. Because of these cuts and the saving made by not paying the premium benefits, the village has seen $64,000 in saving in just six months time. Personally, this seems like positive progress.
Additionally, we have worked hard to mend broken relationships with the local fire department, which were damaged when Bliss pushed the nursing home to call the emergency service numbers instead of reaching out to the local fire and ambulance service, costing them $14,000 and more importantly, we believe, risking the lives of our loved ones in the facility.
We turned down yet another raise in citizen’s cost of water and sewer rates, with the intent to cover the increase in the budget without taking more from the pocket of the community, and we were able to do so. Finally, we found many overlooked equipment and facility safety violations and are working hard to get them up to safety standards for the betterment of our community.
Please understand, we have only been working a very short time on these issues and have already made such incredible progress, and we are asking that you allow us more time to continue to fix what has been broken.
The financial issues the village faces were not caused by our hands, but we assure you we are working very diligently to fix the problems we did not create. We ask that as the citizens of Sutherland, you look at the whole picture and especially take into account the progress that has been made, and allow us to continue our work to make our community a better place.
-- John Lutz and Ray Ravenscroft