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updated: 1/19/2012 11:33 PM

Village grants Lombard Town Centre funding

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Lombard Town Centre will live another year after the village board Thursday night approved $38,500 in funding for the mainly volunteer downtown promotion organization.

With a 4-2 vote, the board approved the funding request, which will provide a 30-hour, part-time salary for Lombard Town Centre Executive Director Karen Stonehouse.

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The amount, to be paid from tax increment financing district funds that must be spent on downtown Lombard, is a $3,500 increase over the $35,000 the village gave Lombard Town Centre last year.

The increase is what drew opposition from dissenting Trustees Bill Ware and Keith Giagnorio as well as Village President Bill Mueller.

The extra funds will cover payroll taxes and provide $800 to $900 as a possible incentive for Stonehouse if she meets certain performance requirements, said Dan Whittington, president of Lombard Town Centre's volunteer board.

But because village employees are not getting any raises -- at least not while a villagewide salary study is under way -- Giagnorio and Mueller said they disagreed with the availability of any incentive for the downtown organization's only paid employee.

Ware also questioned whether the village has spent too much supporting Lombard Town Centre over time. Since the group formed in 2005, Lombard has given it $424,000 in tax increment financing district funds, Bill Heniff, community development director, said.

"I'm not trying to kill the Lombard Town Centre. I'm not trying to kill the volunteer group," Ware said. "I guess I'm wondering at the end of the day, when is enough, enough?"

Trustee Peter Breen said he has not heard any opposition to funding Lombard Town Center from the people whose opinions he values most -- downtown business and property owners. The organization has a large group of volunteers who work an average total of 30 hours a week on bringing new businesses to downtown Lombard and making it a destination for consumers, he said, so a lot is being done with a small amount of funding.

"The village is getting a very good deal from this investment," Breen said

Seven people spoke in favor of funding Lombard Town Center and no one from the public spoke against granting the funds at Thursday night's board meeting.

"The town centre organization and its volunteers are the engine that provides the energy and enthusiasm that keeps the businesses going forward," said Art Frerichs, who owns Art's Master Mechanics in downtown Lombard.

All speakers praised Stonehouse for her ability connect downtown business owners, the village, and other entrepreneurs looking for a place to locate their ventures.

"Not funding is not an option because there will be no Lombard Town Centre, there will be a stagnant downtown," said volunteer board member Lynne Magnavite. "We are all Lombardians, we should work together to preserve and revitalize the heart of our downtown."

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