It is sometimes a bumpy road to unity

By Carol Walker

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What do sidewalks and school teachers have in common? Well, in Hill City it would be that they both have evoked quite a bit of talk about town. The sidewalk, because it has taken years and years of talk and committees and more talk and government red tape and design updates. The teachers, because there was a good chance a couple would be eliminated. What’s a city council or school board to do?

It has been a long process when it comes to the sidewalks, and people in town have wanted the west side of Main St. to be made safer and more beautiful for years. Then along came the 80/20 (or I guess now it’s 82/18) grant. Wow, the city could do it for about $75,000 and the state would kick in the bigger share of about $325,000. Let’s go, let’s get with the program.

Committees for design, city council input, city engineer, state engineers, light poles to be moved, John Johnson asking, “What’s happening with the sidewalk project?”, more engineers, and then when it seemed imminent, an archaeological review of historic structures. Meanwhile, businesses wait. When will the sidewalk be torn up, and how will it affect the people who enter their stores and buy their products?

If one were to add up all the hours that have been absorbed by the sidewalk process by everyone connected to it, it would translate into a lot of money. That free 82 percent is costing quite a bit. But, anyone who has ever worked with government before knows that every i must be dotted and every t crossed before the program can begin.

I commend the city council for their tenacity, toughing it through the sidewalk saga and the ups and downs of the whole grant process. They want it to happen as much as anyone in town, and they don’t want to disrupt businesses during the height of the tourist season. I believe it will happen, and hopefully during the winter of 2018-2019.

Likewise, I commend the school board for looking at the budget shortfall, examining the options and doing what they thought was best with the information they had at the time. Cutting a popular industrial technology program and a middle school science teacher was not so popular with parents and teachers. The school board couldn’t cut from the core subjects, and with enrollment declining substantially, they had to make a painful decision that raised the ire of many. They listened to comments from constituents, they took the heat, something anyone in public office must do.

Now with five resignations, the picture has changed and the board quickly reinstated the science teacher and the shop teacher, faculty they didn’t want to cut in the first place. They could make a new decision based on new information.

I must also extol the efforts of community members, regarding both the school budget decisions and the sidewalk. Board members and council members are elected by the people and entrusted with making decisions that will benefit the people. I believe they take their jobs seriously. But citizens have the right to question and give their input to those bodies. They have the right to run for the same office, and some are doing that. It’s the democratic way, and I am glad people are exercising their rights.

So, I guess it’s kudos to everyone for carrying out responsibilities and rights and helping to make Hill City a better place from the sidewalk to the school. It is kind of like in a household. Differences are expressed, discussions ensue, but ultimately unity is essential for the home structure to prevail. I think the same is true for a town.

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