DYER | Roads, parks and personnel are among the top issues in the Ward 5 primary races.
Incumbent Debbie Astor faces off against fellow Republican Jethroe Smith while on the Democratic side, former Town Councilman Steven Kramer is up against newcomer John Eagan.
Astor said roads top the list in her campaign.
“Our roads are a main concern,” she said, including those in Monaldi Manor, Sandy Ridge and the area around Protsman school. Previous Councils have addressed road issue in a stop-and-start manner, a behavior that has to stop, she said.
“You have to keep fixing. We (also) need to come up with a plan on how to attack these roads” that need work.
The police and fire departments are also top priority, she said.
“We just had the 27 (police) officer in the process of getting hired. In this day and age, we need to put a plan in pace to hire three more.”
The town is also working through the process of hiring permanent part-time firefighters.
"It needs to be that way. We’re growing; we need to put a plan in action. You have to make tough decisions, but some people on the council are afraid to.”
Astor said she brings “a very good history to the table.”
Her good relationship with Lake County officials helped get the Edmonds Street Bridge project back on track, she said.
“I work well with the county. I know who to go to when we need something. I know who to go to downstate.
"You have fiscally responsible with taxpayers’ money. It’s about helping people with the same kind of pocketbook I do.”
Smith, currently president of the Dyer Redevelopment Commission, is running for office for the second time.
Like other Ward 5 candidates, Smith identifies roads as one of the biggest issues in town.
“The fact is that we really need to have plans (to determine) conditions of roads and how to assess them.”
Smith said he’d like to “get people involved even in the funding options for doing the roads.”
Personnel issues are also a major concern with him.
“The fact is that we need to treat all employees equally.”
Last year, police officers received larger pay increases than other town employees.
“All employees have parts to play in town functions. We got to stop playing favorites. What we have to do is provide services” within the town’s means. It’s a balancing act.”
Communication is key, and in his opinion, “that’s been lacking. What I’m hoping to do is get on the council with like-minded and people and do some planning.
"What are we going to do about replacing town equipment? The town council has to leads by example,” Smith said.
“Personality conflicts have gotten in the way. We can agree to disagree and work together to move Dyer forward. I’ve already shown I can work with anybody.”
Kramer previously served as Ward 5’s Councilman and is currently on the Dyer Economic Development Commission.
“What I’ve been hearing from residents is, the lack of growth in Dyer,” he said. “There’s development all round us, in St. John, and Schererville. It’s like we’re stuck in a doughnut hole.”
If he is elected to the council, Kramer said he will work to help the town grow and expand its tax base.
“The same old plan and the same old ideology are not bringing it in.”
Parks are also an issue. Many smaller neighborhood parks are minimally developed if at all. Even use of the town’s largest park, Central Park, had been stymied by lack of the development of its ball fields, he said.
He would like to change something do things different.
“They’ve been reseeded several times, but (teams) still haven’t been able to use them. It would be nice to develop one good baseball field” on-site.
Traffic, too, remains an issue as the town grows. Kramer would like to see Dyer officials sit down with officials from other communities and “work together” to smooth out traffic snarls.
Communities, he said, can work to identify traffic patterns, which streets are being used frequently and which aren’t, and ultimately improve traffic on local roads.
Eagan, currently a Dyer Police commissioner and formerly a Park Board member, is making his first run for office.
“I would make significant improvements in how the town uses the Web to serve citizens,” he said.
Eagan said he would spearhead an effort to create an online service that would let residents interact with the town. In his vision of the town, “Everyone gets a (voice), everyone has a stake,” he said.
"I would also begin a strategic planning process for all of the departments in town. This will help town officials determine the future direction for a department or the entire town government.
"Strategic planning differs from other types of plans because it allows the town managers to assess where we are now, where we want to be in the future and how to get there by setting goals and objectives."
He also believes the cost of running local governments could be reduced by sharing resources.
Ideally, Dyer would meet with neighboring towns to review the portions of the state law that encourage communities to share resources.
"This is something that I would encourage. This would help curb government expenses.”
On the other side of the ledger, Dyer should be working on ways to deliver new services in a cost-effective manner, he said.
Eagan also likes the idea of long-range planning for storm water management and road projects.
“Residents should not have to wait until their roads have turned almost to gravel before they are repaved.”