Many of the folks at last week’s flood-prevention seminar likely came to learn about how to stop flooding in their homes, or how to be reimbursed for damage. 

Mayor Anthony Calderone said several times, before the seminar, that it was only intended to educate residents on how to invest in flood-prevention. And that’s what the audience got.

Presenters from local businesses talked about different equipment that can be purchased to stop water from entering homes, and how to navigate the insurance-claims process in order to get proper reimbursement for flood damage.

They were well-versed in the subject matter, and were willing to answer any questions the audience had. What’s more, after the presentations, the mayor personally addressed the issue of flooding in town and talked about prevention.

The event was well received by audience members, who were happy to have their questions answered and some of their concerns addressed. Many seemed to understand that flood-prevention is largely the homeowner’s responsibility. 

At one point, though, an audience member asked Calderone, in so many words, what the village intended to do about its combined sewer system (often blamed for the home-flooding that residents experience.)

He smiled, laughed, and said, “Show me where I can find $80 million … and I’ll be there with a bulldozer.”

Such has been local government’s thinking for years. It was 10 years ago that the village, according to officials, last made an effort to tackle the glaring problem that is its dated sewer system. At that time, Commissioner Mark Hosty noted, officials enlisted consultants to study what needed to be done to revamp the sewers and then sought federal aid.

Unfortunately, the money wasn’t available then and it doesn’t look like it will be any time soon. Nonetheless, it would be nice if the mayor would quit laughing off this question, and actually engage the public and the press in some type of dialogue.

No logical person expects an immediate $80 million solution. This is a vast problem that needs to be addressed incrementally with a variety of fixes and a range of funding sources. That’s the sort of plan that requires open minds and open dialogue.

Shrugging off a resident’s sincere inquiry with a joke isn’t going to solve the problem. And calling the question BS (which the mayor did last weekend when the Forest Park Review asked him about the woman’s question), isn’t leadership.

Will a long-term solution require the sale of bonds, a referendum for a long-term tax increase, federal aid, all of the above? It’d be nice to have some clue as to what the options are. Forest Parkers should not be forced to resign themselves to the fact that the sewer system will never be dealt with.

This is too big an issue to not at least begin thinking about some long-term planning. And if that’s already happening, then let folks in on what’s being discussed; Forest Parkers deserve that much.