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Hammond residents frustrated over projects

As construction crews ready Wolf, Clark and Adams streets with X's spray painted on trees and lines marked on roads, some Hammond residents cry out in protest against actions of the Village Board.

Their list of complaints includes cutting down trees for the new street, installation of sidewalks and moving a trailer to access a sewer line.

Additionally, resident Dan Haggerty said he doesn't think the Board is doing their job of listening to the citizens and acting as the citizens desire.

"Our complaints fall on deaf ears," he said. "They let us say something and then say they're doing it anyway."

The controversies stem from the 2008 street project in which the identified streets are torn up and the sewer and water lines underneath them (some nearing or over 50 years old) are replaced.

The new streets will be wider than those torn up. Village Board President Vince Trudell said all the street projects in the past have laid down a 66-foot-wide street.

Additionally, sidewalks are being installed along Clark Street. Some residents of Clark Street lament that the sidewalks aren't necessary, and the loss is greater than the benefit. Many old, tall trees will need to be cut down in order for the sidewalk to pass through, not to mention the yard space they will take up and a potential decrease in property values.

Village Engineer Greg Adams said he has been working with the residents and Public Works Director Rod Turk to determine the best placement for everyone.

Turk reported at an Aug. 13 special Board meeting that the proposed sidewalk has been shifted two feet to the west, thereby saving about 12 trees.

He added that a few residents asked for their trees to be taken down during the street project. "It's a good time to move them," he said.

However, all residents aren't supportive of the project.

Three different households expressed their discontent with the Village Board and the street project during Hammond Heartland Days by putting large signs up.

The signs claim the Board is unconcerned with the residents or cost of improvements and they've been dishonest with the proceedings.

Trudell said the people are allowed to have their opinion. "If that's how they want to voice it, that's fine," he said.

Haggerty said, "If the Village wants the signs to be taken down, they'll have to do it."

One sign is on private property, Haggerty said. Another was taken down shortly after Heartland Days. The last was on a controversial piece of land adjoining Haggerty's. That sign has since been destroyed by rain.

The strip of land runs in line with Wolf Street. However, Haggerty said since he moved to his home in 1992, the alleged road has been a green space which he's taken care of like it was part of his lawn.

There are currently wooden posts blocking vehicles from travelling on the path.

Haggerty said he and his wife, Sally, have filed a lawsuit to resolve the issue. He said the state law says if the land has been maintained for five years by the residents, it's split between property owners.

Sally said they even offered to pay for new signs for Wolf Street to designate parts of the road as east and west.

The Haggertys said the Board refuses to budge on the issue to leave it as green space.

Trudell said the Board was concerned about safety issues. An ambulance got lost in the jaunt between Wolf Street segments one time.

Additionally, Trudell said the houses built behind Haggertys have never had a real road to their houses.

He said now seemed like a good time to put the road in since the street project was there already.

Another issue drawing strong protest from the community pertains to the trailer court on Wolf Street, owned by BB&C LLC.

Two trailers sit on a sewer line set to be replaced in the street project. The debate centers around what to do with the two trailers and their residents.

Martha Meister and Bob Myrvold have been calling the trailer on lot six "home" for about four-and-a-half years. Myrvold said he's been told the trailer has been in its current spot since it was new, back in 1973.

Meister said they bought that particular trailer to help them.

"We bought this trailer because it was easy access without a lot of hardship," she said.

Meister and Myrvold are both over 65 and living on disability payments. Meister suffers from osteoporosis and osteoarthritis among other health issues. Myrvold is a double amputee.

Meister said, "It's difficult for us to get around. It's nice and private here, in a way."

Their neighbors in the trailer court worry not only for them, but for their own trailers as well. Once one trailer goes, they fear they will all be on the list to be moved out.

Randy Schillinger, who lives a few trailers down from Meister and Myrvold, said he was planning on doing maintenance to his home, but isn't sure if it will be worth it.

He said, "None of us can afford to fight."

At a special Board meeting on Aug. 4, the Board voted to allow Meister and Myrvold's trailer to be moved to allow work to be done underneath it. They said the trailer could be put back, as long as there was a clear lifeline for it and the court owners, BB&C LLC, comes up with a future plan to bring the whole court up to current zoning regulations.

Meister and Myrvold were pleased with the decision, as was BB&C LLC who originally proposed the plan to the Board through a letter dated June 9.

Steve Peterson, Board trustee, wavered in his commitment to the decision at the regular Board meeting on Aug. 11. He said he wasn't trying to evict anyone, but worried the Board would be setting an unwanted precedent.

They decided to hold a special meeting on Aug. 13 to re-evaluate the decision to allow the trailers to be put back. Two trustees must vote to hold a special session. Trudell said it was so quick because the street project was set to start soon, and they wanted the issue resolved before then.

Myrvold said it was luck that he knew about the special meeting on Aug. 13. He hadn't planned to go to the Aug. 11 meeting but did anyway and heard about it there.

The meeting was noticed for the full 24 hours, as required by law, but residents said they don't always go to the post office every day to see it. BB&C LLC said they found out about it because of a phone call from a resident of the court.

After an hour of debate, the Board agreed to let the original decision stand, thereby allowing the trailer to be put back.

When the people currently residing in the trailers cease occupancy without intent to return for 90 days, the trailers will be removed.

Board President Vince Trudell summarized, "When they're gone, it's gone."

The issue now concerns the expenses of moving the trailers. BB&C LLC said that it will costs thousands of dollars to move both of the trailers away from and back to their spots.

Additionally, Myrvold and Meister question who would incur the expenses of possible damages to the trailer. The trailer and its pipes are old and parts may need replacement after the relocation.

Trailer court resident Greg Shaffer said, "It (the trailer court issues) is never going to go away until they (the Board) get their way."

Other residents in the street project area hope for things to change.

However, Haggerty said, "We've gotten to the point where all we can do is create a lot of noise."

As for the future of the Board, Haggerty said he expects some new faces as terms expire. "I'm pretty sure there will be some competition for their spots," he said.