Letter: Whiteland Town Council doesn’t communicate with residents

To the editor:

Having attended Whiteland Town Council meetings for the past 2.5 years, I would like to share some observations from a private citizen.

Our town council does not set any goals for our town manager, Norm Gabehart.

As I was told, Norm has no limits on what he can spend without council approval.

Our town council has only once, since I have been attending meetings, instructed Norm at a meeting to do something, and that was to find out about a weather warning siren for the west side of town by Park Forest.

The town’s election system seems to be flawed also. We have three ward-specific representatives, and two at-large members of our town council. However, the whole town gets to vote not only for the at-large members but also for each ward-specific representative.

These elected officials should be elected by constituents from their specific ward. I brought this to the council’s attention almost a year ago, and nothing has been done, and nothing seems to be in the works.

The issue has simply been dropped. This reeks of a fixed system where one section of town could decide all of our elected officials.

The town’s stormwater fund is not overseen by the town council. Our storm water board is a three-member board appointed by our town council president. None of these people are elected.

As of Feb. 3, this account had $406,679.11 available.

In July, this board approved the purchase of two new Dodge Ram 4-wheel-drive pickup trucks for the town manager and the storm sewer director to the tune of $13,000 per year for five years. No town council approval to spend this amount of money?

Only a three-member board handpicked by the town council president, and only two members were in attendance the evening in July when this was approved. And no information about this request was posted in the agenda, or on the town’s web site according to my research. Why did this have to be done at this meeting?

It was suggested that a memo about these trucks would be forthcoming, but has yet to happen. And then on Jan. 25, we paid another $2,026 for tires for the town manager’s truck according to the voucher packet check 10740. Why would a six-month-old truck need $2,026 worth of new tires?

Information is very hard to come by in our town. The website is not utilized to its maximum potential. There’s no information on our town’s website about future development, street projects, board vacancies or just general information.

I can remember Norm standing at the podium while still “interim” town manager and telling the town council that he wanted the town informed. How he wanted information posted on the website for a time (I believe he stated two weeks), before it was brought to the town council, and I would assume any other board.

Sadly, this is one pledge that has not been kept. As the minutes from the May 2016 meeting state “(Scot) Ford suggested Mr. Reifeis turn in a (public records request) for his information and did not want to answer his questions at the meetings.”

And then when you turn in requests, and spend 2.5 hours sitting with the town clerk/treasurer explaining what you want, and that you were willing to pay for the items requested, and still not get what was asked for. The state told me to resubmit my request, and if need be to sue the town for this information.

In March, due to a water main break, there was a water boil alert given. Some citizens posted on the Town of Whiteland Informed Citizens Facebook page stating they were informed by the school system about the boil alert.

This information should have been posted to the town’s website before the school informed parents about the alert. I looked at the town’s web site after reading the post asking about the boil alert, and nothing was yet posted. It eventually was posted, but after citizens had already been informed by the school.

It is the responsibility of any town’s citizens to oversee their local government. This is impossible to do when the town won’t inform its citizens without having to submit requests for public documents, and paying for information that should be readily available on the town’s website. It appears the town council of Whiteland does not want the citizen oversight, and is willing to do whatever they can to keep its citizens uniformed.

Art Reifeis