In an unexpected move by elected officials, Fillmore Town Council members announced that they were going to "pay it forward" Saturday, by refusing to take nearly 70 percent of their annual salary, giving it back to the town.
In the announcement, which essentially opened up the newly elected council's first public meeting, Fillmore Town Council President Jeff Osborn stated that all three board members would refuse to collect the roughly $4,000 portion of their salary that comes out of the town's controversial water and sewer funds.
In a written statement circulated at the meeting, Osborn stated, "This 'good faith' effort is the first of many changes that the incoming town council plans on implementing after taking office."
However, that good faith effort was not just geared at getting the troubled community's finances back in order, but to inspire others in Fillmore to do the same.
"The council wants to set a precedent of community involvement, Osborn said. "Not just ask 'what's in it for me.'"
The new board did not stop at steep salary reductions. Each council member has donated other materials aimed at revitalizing the Fillmore government and town hall.
A council donation rundown: Wanda Seidler, the newly elected Clerk-Treasurer, donated a microwave and all the necessary software to run Fillmore Town Hall's first computer. Jeff Osborn, a website development and management consultant by day, donated the town's website, www.fillmoreindiana.com, in addition to a new computer, software and technical support for Town Marshall Tom Helmer.
Wes Terhune donated a set of flags for town hall and helped other board members slap a fresh coat of paint on the walls, while Alan Jones crafted a gavel and sounding block to be used during public meetings, flagpoles and a new refrigerator.
Their "pay it forward" gamble appears to have paid off, as other members of the community have begun to volunteer their time and labor. Jackie Miller and staff at Bert & Betty's restaurant have agreed to donate catering services at every town meeting. Bob and Linda Tyler donated a new town sign and a hand crafted town council suggestion box.
And as Saturday's meeting progressed into new and old business, community members began volunteering to take on town repair and construction jobs, such as badly needed tree trimming and concrete replacement at sewage lift stations, free of charge.
In the end, many of the Fillmore residents that packed the small town hall Saturday morning seemed genuinely inspired by what their newly elected officials brought to the table.
"Thank you," said Kevin McCammack, as he rose from the crowd. "I see progress already."
Though Osborn and other council members acknowledge that cookies and a fresh coat of paint are a far cry from solving Fillmore's serious financial troubles, they say that getting the community involved and invested is the first step down a long road.
"We want to make this the kind of community it was when I was a kid," Osborn said.