The Manchester Village council met Tuesday evening, Jan. 5 before a full house of concerned citizens at the village’s Community Building. The evening’s agenda included the swearing in of two council members who won seats in the Nov. election: Christine Henderson and C.L. “Skip” Wagner were given the oath by newly-elected mayor, Robert Hilderbrand.
Following the completion of regular business, members of the community were invited to address their questions and concerns to the council.
Linda Rossman expressed her concern about the council’s decision to make cuts to the village’s police force. “I’m very concerned about our police protection,” she told the council. “I think we should cut other things instead of our police protection.”
Mayor Hilderbrand explained that the town’s general fund was empty. “We can’t move money around, we’ve been borrowing money from Peter to pay Paul for too long,” the mayor told those assembled. “We’ve taken money from the general fund for 17 years to meet expenses, but we are no longer allowed to do that.”
He assured those present that he and Chief Jeff Bowling were searching for alternative solutions to bolster the police department throughout the coming year. “By 2017 we will be out of the hole,” he told those present. “If we don’t make these cuts now, come May, we won’t have any funds for the police department.”
Another community member, Liz Fernandez, raised the issue of overgrown trees and shrubs on private properties that were obscuring street signs and creating safety hazards for drivers. “This is a safety hazard,” she stated. “These bushes hide oncoming traffic, we’ve even had complaints from bus drivers and I’d like to know why the problem hasn’t been taken care of.”
Following several minutes of discussion, the council asked Police Chief Bowling to deliver letters to the home owners warning that conditions on their property represented a danger to the general public and were to be cleaned up.
There was also discussion concerning potholes in village streets that were not being repaired. Once again Mayor Hilderbrand explained that the town simply didn’t have the money to make the necessary repairs.
Earl “Buster” Ruark, head of the Manchester Street Department told those present, “The issue has been brought up before, but there is no money to fix the potholes, I can only spend what they allow me to spend, at the end of the year, the department is broke.”
Manchester’s street department is funded solely by a gas tax. In recent years the number of gas stations in Manchester has dwindled from six to one. Mayor Hilderbrand said, “It is vital that we all buy gas in Manchester because that money funds the street department, it’s the only way we have to generate revenue. If we buy gas out of town, we aren’t supporting our street department.”
The mayor also spoke at length about the need to continue cleaning up properties in the village. “We have a beautiful town here, we all grew up here, and we take pride in it. We need to get it cleaned up and the only way we’re going to do it is to push the issue and show people that we mean business, clean it up or else.”
The mayor and council intend to take stern measures against those who fail to clean up their properties.
Once a clean up order is issued, the town will step in if the owner fails to abide by the order. “We will clean it up,” Hilderbrand said, then, we will bill them and if the bill isn’t paid within a specified period of time, we will foreclose on the property to get our money back.”
He also acknowledged that it would take time and cooperation to accomplish their goals, “Manchester needs a Beautification Committee, and every citizen of the village is a member, it’s going to take everyone working together to get things done. No one is going to invest a nickel in this town if they wouldn’t live in it. We can ask for businesses to come, but until we bring back pride in home ownership, they won’t. It’s going to take volunteers,” he added, “you can’t do a lot with $5, but you can with volunteers.”