Westfield’s actions of forgiveness

The Westfield Village Board performed a surprisingly praiseworthy action. In the OBSERVER (Aug. 8) was an article where they agree to cover a $10,000 fine levied on the chief operator of the Westfield Pump Station for violation of the Clean Water Act. This fine was part of the punishment ordered by the U.S. District Court for environmental and health regulations, it will be paid for out of the sewer fund.

From this article I gather that when rains or snow melts occur there is a significant pump station run off that eventually finds it way into Chautauqua Creek. This has been a problem for years, and despite pleas for grants and support no aid was forthcoming. Even two former operators say they would have made the same decision because of the older infrastructure and it being situated on a flood plain.

Also, the present chief operator’s actions minimized the amount of wastewater discharge allowing the people within the region to have potable water. Proper procedure was followed by notifying the required State agencies. One of which, the DEC, says it has not been notified, while former Westfield personnel state other wise.

But, despite that, a video taken in 2014 regarding overflow got into the US Attorney’s hands and they decided to pursue a felony charge against the present chief operator. There’s an unwritten legal maxim that states: “Charge high, settle low.” So against this hapless individual they threaten to assess a fine of $50,000 per day of violation and up to three years imprisonment. This keeps many individuals, including the innocent ones, from battling the might of the U.S. and state governments who live off the taxpayers largess, having all the legal resources and powers at their disposal, while the allegedly accused lose their time, money, and health. He took the plea deal.

The OBSERVER relates how even this lesser charge affects the individual and family, and I paraphrase: he has to deal with probation officers coming into his home; the public humiliation from small-minded individuals who don’t know the facts and haven’t anything better to do but live off the misery of others; has to make several trips to Buffalo to meet his p.o.; will have a record; his children subject to taunts and ridicule about their dad being a criminal and coming home in tears; will never be able to go into Canada and other countries. One prohibition not mentioned, especially in New York, is ownership of arms whether for protection, hunting, or sport. You can possibly lose them.

So, in closing, the board action is noble and magnanimous. If similar gestures of good will and forgiveness were practiced by others, what a wonderful world this would be.

Ralph Burke is a Dunkirk resident.