Westfield Mayor Andy Cook had to serve as the tie breaker during the Jan. 11 Westfield City Council meeting when it came time to vote on a Hometown Heroes program.
The program was originally proposed by council member Scott Willis, a U.S. Marine. Hometown Heroes would be organized by the City of Westfield but utilizes contractors to provide free basic lawn care and snow removal at the homes of Westfield residents where there’s an active member of the U.S. Military currently deployed out of state or a Westfield public safety staff member injured in the line of duty.
Prior to the vote, council member Scott Frei said although he thought Willis’ heart was in the right place, he thought the city shouldn’t launch the program and instead utilize local churches or volunteer organizations for the services.
“I agree we absolutely should be looking out for our first responders and those who put their life on the line for us, but I think that’s where our agreement ends,” Frei said. “I want to make sure we have the smallest government possible, and this is the type of thing that absolutely can be done through public outreach.”
Frei also expressed concerns of if the language of the resolution, citing that he wasn’t sure what else the program could include outside of lawn care and snow removal.
“These are things are great causes but a terribly slippery slope when it comes to taxpayer dollars,” Frei said.
Frei said he called three local churches, all of which were eager to find out more and one of which was excited about the opportunity to partner on the program. Frei also said that although the service would be provided by contractors at no additional fee, he believes contractors’ bid responses will increase over time due to the program’s requests.
Other concerns included a high request for services through the program, but Willis clarified not all veterans or public safety staff qualified – just the active-duty military members currently stationed outside of the state and Westfield public safety staff who had been injured in the line of duty. Willis also countered Frei’s comment about churches being willing to help.
“If this is something the churches really wanted to do, in 2004 and 2005 we were knee-deep in a war and I didn’t see anybody raising their hands, so I do feel like this is the best starting point to get this off the ground,” Willis said.
Council member Joe Edwards also expressed similar feelings as Willis, and Edwards said although it may be possible for the private sector to become heavily involved later, he thought the city could help by kicking the program off.
Cook related the program to the Westfield Youth Assistance Program.
“I think we went through this with our youth assistance program. We found a need and brought it forward and yes, churches are participating in it, and the private sector funds a great deal of that program, but they have to have a spark to get them going, and I think that’s exactly what this program could very well do,” Cook said.
Council president Mike Johns, council member Troy Patton and Frei voted no. Council member Cindy Spoljaric abstained from the vote, and Edwards, Willis and council member Jake Gilbert voted yes. To break the tie, the vote fell to Cook, who voted yes, therefore passing the resolution with a 4-3 vote.
For more, visit westfield.in.gov.