Between the Lines

Between the Lines By David Lias For the second week in a row, the headline in this column ends with a question mark, because frankly, some of the happenings in City Hall easily can leave one incredulous.

We direct your attention to page one to read about the latest discussion concerning the new fire hall/ambulance facility. To cut to the chase � let's just say after Wednesday night's action, the new fire hall is, once again, a done deal.

And the notion that the citizenry of Vermillion would have a chance to refer the decision to build this $1.2 million structure to a public vote has evidently been a deception throughout the discussions of this project this past year.

Wednesday night Mayor William Radigan once again gave a sermon from the mount in which he demonstrated not the qualities of a good leader, but an inflexibility that completely ignores the potential negative wishes that the public holds toward the design and $1.2 million price tag of the new fire/ambulance facility.

Here are just a few of Radigan's statements Wednesday as the council considered the possibility of rescinding the motion it approved Aug. 7 to award bids for the building. Occasionally you'll see a statement in parentheses that comes from me when I can't resist throwing in my two cents worth.

* "I've sat up here a long time," Radigan said, "and I can tell you the guy against it talks to you a lot quicker than the guy that's for it." (Does that mean that the mayor has been instantly discounting all negative feedback he's been receiving on this project?)

* "Are we going to sit here, and listen to somebody tell us as a council that's supposed to be the ones who make the decisions that are good for this community � are we going to sit here and listen to what seven or eight or 10 people have got to say about this building?" Radigan asked. (I guess that somebody would be you, the taxpayer. Remember, as your dollars are collected in the city coffers, you don't count as far as this issue is concerned.)

* "The number of phone calls I have of people who have anything to say against this are almost zero," Radigan said. (That's strange, because my phone has been ringing off the hook in the last week. Perhaps the mayor isn't receiving any phone calls because his leadership, or lack thereof, leaves people with the impression that it would be a useless exercise.)

* "It's time, as far as I'm concerned, where we are embarrassing the people who are out here in front of us tonight," Radigan said at Wednesday's meeting. The people he was referring to were the 40 or so members of the Vermillion Volunteer Fire Department and local ambulance crew who were in the audience.

* "This town can crucify me if they want to. I don't care. There's an old saying, 'Never pick on anybody who buys ink by the barrel.' Well, I'm ready. I guarantee you if this building isn't built, I'll devote the rest of my life to building it. And I will do some crucifying. And I am not going to back off," he said.

It is the tone of Radigan's last statement that is most upsetting. It's not much different from the diatribe we heard from him at the Aug. 7 city council meeting.

Radigan may as well have stuck his head out of a City Hall window and shouted at every citizen passing by, "I'm going to stick this new building down your throat, whether you like it or not!"

People who study effective leaders generally discover that they share the following traits: They build trusting relationships, they gain the respect they deserve, they eliminate an "us versus them" mentality, they achieve goals and increase self-confidence.

They also solve problems more creatively, they motivate themselves and others, they listen more effectively to learn, they think and communicate more clearly, and they change their attitudes toward mistakes.

How many of these traits describe our mayor? Some? None?

It's important to note, too, that one reason cited for more expensive masonry construction and the many features of the building's design, from a kitchen, restroom and showers, to bedrooms, a meeting room, a communication center and a weight room, is the feeling of pride the community will gain.

People who have closely monitored the progress of this project, from the first design concepts introduced late last year to the present, are aware of the following: Cost estimates of the building exceeded the amount of funds budgeted for the project, twice a request for CDBG funds from the city was turned down by the state because of the building's excessive design, the $125,000 CDBG finally received by the city, thanks to the efforts of Rep. Judy Clark, can't be used until next year, meaning approximately $92,000 of the $1.2 million project will be bid next year, and inflation will likely eat up the entire CDBG funding, the final price tag for the structure totaled about $33,000 too much, meaning approximately $27,000 of interior work had to be delayed and the public can't refer the city council's decision.

Citizens will remember this fiasco each time they view the building. Of all the feelings the structure may promote, perhaps the least of them will be pride.

What is particularly upsetting is the mayor's failure to attempt to build a consensus among Vermillion citizens. Do you feel a sense of ownership in the fire hall/ambulance facility that is about to be constructed?

In fact, it appears that some of the information spread by the mayor has been incorrect. We have already noted that in June, Radigan told Alderman Joe Grause that the public would have an opportunity to refer this issue to a public vote.

The mayor evidently feels that details aren't important, however. All you've got to know is that the present fire hall is old and needs to be replaced. Don't dare question the specifics.

That is no way to lead. We could wish for a major attitude change on the mayor's part, but we doubt that will happen. This community has only one alternative. It must choose a new mayor when Radigan's term expires.

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