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Absences should limit trustee’s criticisms

DEAR EDITOR:

Liberty Township Trustee Arnie Clebone asked me in September for input on improving landscape beds on Belmont Avenue at I-80. As founder and principal owner of Colonial Gardens, I was happy to offer my professional opinion.

After examining the beds’ state of disrepair, I determined continued servicing of current landscaping would require too much time and money for the township’s budget. I recommended a lower maintenance and more aesthetically pleasing design. Trustees Clebone and Greg Cizmar requested I create a design, and I agreed on a volunteer basis.

However, after speaking with Trustee Jodi Stoyak and Besse Anderson from Liberty in Bloom, I learned they preferred a rejuvenation plan. While I strongly disagree with this approach, I attempted to utilize existing beds to compromise. After presenting this plan to trustees at the last monthly evening meeting, it was clear ongoing maintenance of the compromise design would be too costly.

I subsequently drafted a new landscape design featuring the Liberty sign surrounded by flowers as the focal point, with the current flower bed also preserved as part of the larger design. With much lower maintenance costs, it would be a sustainable point of pride for years to come. At the next weekly morning meeting, I presented this new plan, satisfying Trustees Clebone and Cizmar. Unfortunately, Trustee Stoyak does not attend weekly morning meetings and thus offered no input.

In fact, Trustee Stoyak refused to meet me at the site to discuss her wishes. She also has voiced to me her concern about initiatives Trustee Clebone has shown in responding to community complaints about the beds without first consulting her. In public statements on television and to this newspaper in opposing the plans, she’s made misinformed claims about designs, especially regarding removal of the flower bed. Reasonable minds can disagree throughout the design process, but the in-absentia leadership style that Trustee Stoyak is fond of makes it difficult for her to criticize what is actually in the plan.

This dispute is a classic example of “majoring in the minor.” The beds need to be redone, and it should not be hard for trustees, landscapers and the community to collaborate on a sustainable design. If Liberty residents cannot count on Trustee Stoyak to work in good faith on a significant but ultimately cosmetic matter, what hope exists for pressing and complex issues our community faces?

Liberty deserves an appealing front door reflecting pride we take in our township. On this issue, Trustee Stoyak is putting her re-election campaign and personal squabbles with new trustees ahead of community interests. I stand ready to work with leadership that shows up to work for a better Liberty.

NEAL BARKETT

Liberty Township

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