Candidates for the Bloomfield City Council share their thoughts on the city’s infrastructure this week in the second article in a series introducing candidates to the voters of Bloomfield.
Clark says there is noticeable neglect as far as streets and sidewalks are concerned, and for a community to grow, streets and sidewalks must be kept in good shape.
“We cannot let the streets go without repair and expect to draw new businesses and residents,” he said.
“We also need to train employees in the proper ways to repair streets and fill potholes.”
Clark says the city needs to spend some of the taxpayers’ money to get streets and sidewalks back in good condition.
He wants the city to become more pedestrian friendly. “There are a lot of areas throughout the city that are missing sidewalks or they are in terrible shape,” he said. “Walking in the street is unsafe.”
He also commented on the deteriorating sidewalks around the square and the need for the square to be more handicapped accessible.
Commenting on the city’s recent power outage, he said, “Whether or not this (outage) was storm-related, it brought to attention that our distribution system is not in the best shape. If elected, I want to study the system to get a good understanding of what the city has and how it distributes power.
“I want to work on an emergency backup plan and schedule outages one or two times a year for inspection and cleaning.
“By doing this it will decrease our chances of having other substantial issues.
“I realize I am only one person, but I hope to work with the mayor and city administrator along with other councilmen to accomplish these goals.”
Hawkins feel the city should keep the most heavily traveled streets in the best condition, such as Madison Street leading to the hospital and streets used by trucks and other heavy vehicles.
Hawkins suggests the council check on how much money is available to resurface or replace these streets.
“I feel other streets could be oiled and pea gravel applied. I feel the patching that is done now is a waste of time because the water runs under the mix they use.”
Hawkins also suggests the city bring in someone to instruct the employees on how to patch streets.
Hawkins also feels property owners should be responsible for repairing their own sidewalks. “We have to fix our own sidewalks in the residential districts,” he said.
“Long term, I would like to see the city have good streets and be able to maintain them without potholes and rough areas.”
Hawkins also wants to see buildings maintained so the city doesn’t have to purchase them and spend money to tear them down or repair them.
“We should run the city like we run our homes. When we have the money to repair things or buy new things, then we spend the money,” he said.
Earl Howard, incumbent
Howard says, “Infrastructure is a broad topic — what is seen and what is unseen. Streets and sidewalks, power poles and electric lines, electric substations and power generation, manholes and lift stations, buildings and water towers, sanitation sewers and storm water drainage, gas lines and water lines are all pieces of infrastructure.
“The EPA- and DNR- mandated sanitary sewer plant upgrade is an infrastructure project. The Police Department and Fire Department, while services, are part of the infrastructure of the city. You can add parks and recreation, the swimming pool, Lake Fisher, the Mutchler Center, and youth and adult ball fields. The City Council and staff budget for all these items and services.
“It takes approximately ten years to pay for a major street reconstruction using various funding resources such as local option sales tax funds, road use tax dollars, revolving loan fund dollars, CDBG grant funds, and city revenues for major infrastructure improvements.
“The city has devised a plan to be able to do a major infrastructure upgrade approximately every five years. Using Local Option Sales Tax (LOST) funds with awarded CDBG funds and RLF funds and city revenues a street project can be funded.
“Five years later you may be able to do another street using Road Use Tax funds, a CDBG grant and city revenues, bonds or RLF moneys. Every ten years, on a five-year rotation, a project is paid for and a new project may be started.
“The Bloomfield City Council with consultant input reviews its Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) every year or two. This is a working plan that actually may change yearly or more often as incidents and opportunities happen. I am confident last week’s power outage is going to change some timelines in our CIP.
“The city has for several years focused on underground improvements to its water and sanitary sewer upgrades. This was done to improve what goes under or preferably beside the street before a new street is built so you are not tearing up a new street to repair old infrastructure under a new street.
“Yes, streets and sidewalks need repair, some are deplorable, and funds are limited. Priorities have been set and some priorities change weekly, monthly and yearly to meet the needs of Bloomfield and its citizens.”
“The most urgent infrastructure issues for the City are to complete the street projects for which financing is already underway, and to complete the wastewater treatment improvements that are essentially mandatory,” incumbent councilman Matt Cronin says. “These improvements either directly benefit the residents and improve the image of the City, or are required.
“The City’s needs of additional improvements to infrastructure are limitless — sidewalks, utilities, parks, and trails to name a few. However, addressing these issues currently requires an additional burden on residents (in one form or another) that are already heavily burdened. Therefore, it is important to analyze these improvements based upon the likely return they will produce for the city in terms of increased economic activity and improved tax revenue flowing into the City.
“It is also crucial that the Council continue to grow the tax base of the City (through economic and commercial expansion, additional housing development, and retail sales growth), and to ensure that other entities share the cost of infrastructure improvements equitably.
“We must increase the capital and investment flowing into our community, growing its tax base, and not place additional burdens on city residents.”
“Bloomfield is a wonderful place to call home, but a simple drive or walk around town may give you another opinion. Our streets and sidewalks are a mess and I’m not just talking about the square. I think everyone can agree that something other than talking needs to be done.
“The question is, how do we pay for it? Lately it seems the only source has been tax and fee increases. Infrastructure is an issue we simply cannot ignore because we rely on it as a course of doing business and living our lives and it’s so much more than streets and sidewalks.
“A good example is the power outage on September 28. According to the mayor, one of the issues was due to ‘extensive moisture in the substation cabinet, and the failure of the cabinet heater to dry the moisture.’ This and lightning strikes are to blame for the outage.
“Is the failure due to not properly doing maintenance, which costs money? Our electrical grid is in the process of being updated. Those doing the work are doing the best they can. How do we pay for these infrastructure upgrades?
“Watershed is another huge concern and is one of many reasons for the degradation of the foundations to buildings on the square. Those issues must be addressed before we can fix the streets and sidewalks.
“Response to a Bloomfield Main Street survey indicated we need more retail businesses.
“More business will require more homes. Building more homes would allow people to move to Bloomfield so they wouldn’t have to commute from other towns. This would add to the city’s revenue and lessen the burden on the property owners already living here.
“The businesses could use a helping hand. The mindset of our local businesses is one of optimism. That’s awesome! I see a need for advertising and online sales. Business owners admit to deficiencies in their advertising and are only advertising locally. Online sales are almost nonexistent.
“Improving in this area could benefit the city, bolster our economy and add revenue without raising taxes. We can educate our business owners on how and where to advertise their business to bring consumers to Bloomfield. For consumers who live further away, online sales added to existing websites can put products of Bloomfield in homes across the state.
“Increasing the number of businesses means more jobs, higher wages, increase in population and lower taxes while improving our ability to pay for infrastructure, fixing our roads, and providing sidewalks that we can actually walk on.”
“We need to quit putting a band-aid on our city streets and repair them correctly,” candidate Dee Johnson says. “This has to be a priority.
“Maybe the money saved on not filling the position of City Administrator, Community Development Director and other Committees that the City helps to fund could be used to help with street repairs. We need to do a better job maintaining our streets.
“I agree the sidewalks are in need of repair. I am not in favor of a streetscape project of any kind. I do not believe that a streetscape project would fix Bloomfield’s economic issues. Bloomfield needs to have other infrastructure completed prior to any type of streetscape project.
“If you venture to Fairfield or Centerville, their squares are prospering. They do not have fancy sidewalks, brick pavers in the crosswalks, diagonal parking and bump-outs with plants around their square. I think we need to concentrate on drawing and maintaining businesses.
“I understand this past winter was very hard on the streets with all the snow removal. Hopefully, there are grants out there to help get our streets repaired.
“The city needs to be able to supply efficient, dependable and safe electricity. We all know after the storm last week the City of Bloomfield had some major issues.
“I do not remember an outage lasting this long since I have lived in Bloomfield the last 38 years. In the past, the generators would have been fired up to take care of the issue. I think the City needs to consider hiring a person to run the generators. If a person cannot be found, maybe a contract could be worked out with the person who held this position previously.
“The generators need to be tested to prove that they are safe and could produce electricity while needed repairs are made to the damaged substation and other power issues or failures are addressed.
The City needs to get the sewer plant updated. This could be funded with matching CDBG grants.
We need to make sure employees are getting the training they need. We need to make sure they are following safety protocols. We need to make sure the employees have the equipment, high vis clothing, FR clothing and hearing protection they need.
The city needs to quit funding a lot of committees in town, not hire the City Administrator and Community Development Director positions, and direct that money back into the budget.