WELLSVILLE - Little in the way of official business transpired during Tuesday evening's meeting of Wellsville Village Council. For the capacity crowd in council chambers, however, there was no outcry over a lack of substance.
It was to have been a celebratory occasion marking a day set aside for organ donation awareness in the village, but was tragically altered by the untimely passing of its inspiration, Chelsea Lingenfelter, on Monday afternoon. The 21-year-old Wellsville woman was undergoing a long-awaited liver transplant operation at the Cleveland Clinic when she died.
Most village administrators refrained from presenting reports to council, citing the tragedy of Lingenfelter's death and sharing their sadness with all in attendance. Police Chief Joe Scarabino said, "There's nothing that I could possibly say that would come close to the main reason why we have such a turnout here tonight."
Brandon Russell, youth minister at Wellsville First Christian Church (left) leads village residents and other well-wishers in prayer during a candlelight vigil following Tuesday evening’s council meeting, held in memory of Chelsea Lingenfelter, who passed away Monday afternoon during organ transplant surgery at the Cleveland Clinic. (Photo by Richard Sberna)
During public comments, Greg Beatty fought back tears as he delivered an emotional elegy to council and his fellow residents. "We lost a precious soul in this community, and I'm so proud of this community for the way they banded together," he said. "You've shown your true colors in this village, and I'm so thankful to have been a part of it."
Beatty encouraged everyone to remain closer to each other and to God moving forward, as well as during this immediate period of shock and grief. "Find your way with the Lord so that someday, we can again see Chelsea in heaven," he said.
Though the tenor of the meeting may have been drastically altered, the intent remained steadfast. In honor of her short but inspirational life, Mayor Haugh announced a proclamation naming March 23, 2013, as the inaugural "Organ Donor Awareness Day, in Honor of Chelsea Lingenfelter," to be observed annually in Wellsville on the fourth Saturday of each March.
Lew Shepherd of Team Chelsea outlined Lingenfelter's protracted wait for a donor liver, which ultimately was found too late. "I think that now, it's even more poignant, the purpose of this holiday," he said, sharing his hope that further action and awareness could potentially spare other families the pain now visited upon the Lingenfelter family. He also quoted statistics stating that 18 people die every day in America waiting for an organ donation.
"There's no reason that anyone should be on a waiting list for more than a year," Shepherd said. On March 23, an organ donor registration drive will be held at village hall, and he encouraged all who currently aren't organ donors to come and sign up.
The measure was unanimously approved by council, with the exception of Tony Cataldo, who was absent from the meeting. A framed copy of the proclamation was presented to Shepherd and Lorie Baumgarner, a close friend of Chelsea's mother, Joni Lingenfelter, and a co-founder of Team Chelsea.
The small portion of village business addressed was the reinstatement of a two-hour parking limit on Main Street. Councilwoman Diane Dinch clarified that it would apply only to opposite the river side of the street, where the majority of businesses are located on Main.
Councilwoman Tonda Ross argued to have the rule apply to both side of Main, suggesting that motorists being barred from parking on that side would simply migrate to the other side of the street, monopolizing those spaces. Dinch said there was no reason to outline the exact parameters of the area in the ordinance, suggesting that those issues could be handled in committee. Ross was satisfied with this, and voted with the majority for approval.
In other business:
* Council approved the payment of village bills totaling $14,136.90.
* Village administrator Thom Edgell said the time for patching potholes was rapidly approaching, and he encouraged residents to contact his office and recommend roads that were in particular need of attention.