t was a changing of the guard of sorts for the City of Dearborn on Monday night.
In what was an evening of new direction, newcomers Louis Buntin and Gary Bomar were sworn in as new aldermen, Buntin was elected the new president of the board, and the aldermen voted to replace the head of its park project.
And it all took place at a standing-room only meeting at city hall, where Dearborn residents take their local government seriously, as evidence in that 44% of voters cast ballots in Ward 2 last week.
Buntin was elected unopposed in Ward 1 last week, while Bomar’s write-in campaign against Gary Reed was successful in Ward 2, with Bomar pulling 40 votes to 26 for Reed, who was on the ballot.
Much discussion about the new park under construction in the city was held. New aldermen, as well as incumbent alderman Bill Edwards, expressed concern over the lack of a site plan that would include an engineer’s study. They also were disappointed that trees and other vegetation hasn’t been properly removed from the site.
“There is a major loss of confidence in the community in the way things have been done on the new park so far,” Buntin said.
Aldermen held a back-and-forth discussion with former mayor Delba McAuley, who has served as the city’s parks director and has been in charge of the new project.
McAuley said there is a map of where things will be placed within the park, but no engineered site plan.
She said officials with the county parks and rec department, which has provided grant money to the city for the park, have told her no engineer was needed.
“The county has told us they don’t feel an engineer is necessary for this project,” McAuley told the board.
“We have to follow what the parks and rec department tells us,” she said.
The new park is expected to include a baseball field, a basketball court, some playground equipment, a shelter house and possibly some walking trails, Mayor Josh Linville said.
McAuley explained that trees had been cleared from the property but vegetation “debris” remains. The first company had come through with a bulldozer and pushed off the trees, which has not completely cleared the debris underneath, it was explained. She said the city paid $2,800 to have this done, with the next lowest bid coming it at around $8,000 or $9,000.
Another company has since offered to come in and clean up the remaining debris from the area at a cost between $3,500 and $5,000.
McAuley defended her decisions in regard to the park by saying that all decisions had been run through the board of aldermen for approval.
“I didn’t vote on the bids,” she said.
“If you’re not happy with the progress, appoint whoever you want. It hasn’t been a picnic. It has been a heck of a lot of hours,” McAuley added.
“I appreciate that,” Buntin said.
McAuley responded: “No, I don’t think you do. Good luck, I want this park and ball park to be built,” and left the building.
Buntin said he is representing the opinions of the people he was elected to serve.
The board eventually voted 3-1 to replace McAuley with Karlton Nash, who will now take over as a construction manager of sorts for the new park. Buntin, Bomar and Edwards voted to replace McAuley with Karlton Nash. Donald Swanstone, Jr. voted against the motion. Linville, who as mayor does not vote, indicated a preference to keep McAuley and initially vetoed the motion, only to have his veto overturned by the same 3-1 vote. He explained city ordinance requires a two-thirds majority vote by the board to override a veto and the 3-1 vote topped the requirement.
Nash said he’d like to develop a site plan, have an engineering study done, and a cost-analysis completed.
“I personally think you’ll have to back up,” Nash said, adding he would have preferred to see the board keep the old ball park operational until the new one is built.
Concerns of proper stormwater drainage at the site have also been mentioned by members of the community.
Dearborn youth can play their summer ball with Camden Point teams if the Dearborn field is not completed, the mayor said recently.
In other matters:
•Linville was sworn in for a one-year unexpired term after being elected last week. He had first been named to the mayor’s post seven months ago after McAuley resigned the position.
•Buntin was chosen new president of the board. The previous president had been Swanstone.
•The board decided to hold a special meeting next Monday, April 18. Items on the agenda will include a budget workshop, a proposed sewer project at the Trexmart store, and other matters.
•The possibility of starting a quarterly newsletter from the city available to residents was discussed. Such a newsletter could be mailed or posted at public places such as the library. Linville said the item will be discussed further at a future meeting.