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Letter: More to the overlay story

More to the overlay story

Regarding the Tribune’s headline story for June 23, “Willmar drops all street overlay work this year after some residents object,” I’d like to point out that the piece tends to minimize what many of us would consider to be the most important outcome of the City Council meeting on June 16. There is much more to the story, and deeper considerations behind our concerns as residents, than reported in the article.

During that meeting, my neighbors and I on Ninth and 10th Streets Southwest objected to the proposed overlay work and subsequent assessments because our street surfaces are excellent when compared with the other rough, uneven, pitted, and pot-holed surfaces of streets found within the city limits that need more immediate attention.

Our main point is this: In fiscally restrictive times for both municipalities and families, it makes good governing sense to spend maintenance dollars where they are needed and to avoid placing undue tax burdens on homeowners in locations that simply do not need the work.

Our objections found support, but more importantly, the decision-making process and tax assessment methodologies pertaining to overlay-type street projects were both discussed in open and thoughtful ways. To simply go with a policy because it is “long-established” (as Councilmember Denis Anderson suggested) is not the way to effectively govern in these times. To simply say “this is the way we’ve always done it” is not providing leadership. When we consider the constraints of available resources — funding, equipment, and labor — it is best to direct the limited resources our city has available to those projects where attention is truly needed.

If the outcome is re-evaluating our decision-making paradigms and reworking proposals, plans, and projects so that these truly meet the needs of residents, then everyone realizes authentic benefits.

My neighbors and I applaud the thought leadership shown by many on the City Council who proposed that past policies be examined in subcommittee work.

This is what the article missed: When citizens are heard, their interests represented, and our city’s resources are used prudently, the benefits are shared by all.

Terry M. Brunson