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updated: 2/25/2013 12:09 PM

Gurnee mayoral candidates Kovarik, Morris have ideas on how they would improve village

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  • Incumbent Kristina Kovarik, left, and Trustee Kirk Morris, right, are running to be Gurnee mayor in the April 9 election.

      Incumbent Kristina Kovarik, left, and Trustee Kirk Morris, right, are running to be Gurnee mayor in the April 9 election.

 
 

Gurnee's two mayoral candidates have different ideas on bettering the community if they win the April 9 election.

Mayor Kristina Kovarik says there is a need for more village-sponsored events, while her challenger, Trustee Kirk Morris, wants to see a beautification program.

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Both candidates shared their views on the issues in a joint Daily Herald editorial board endorsement interview and on questionnaires. Among the questions they were asked was whether they have a good idea on how to improve Gurnee that no one else is talking about.

Kovarik, a former village board trustee elected to her first 4-year term as mayor in 2005, said she would push for more village-sponsored community fairs, events and festivals if returned to the top elected position. Gurnee Days is a village staple each August, but it is operated by a private organization and receives some public money from the village for fireworks.

"I hear ... from residents consistently that they would like more things to do together as a community on a large scale," Kovarik said. "I've got a few ideas, but it takes funding and a lot of volunteers to add more events."

Morris, who was elected to the village board as a trustee in 2009, said his idea to improve the community would involve a volunteer effort to clean woodlands near the Grand Avenue corridor and a Des Plaines River ravine. He said the effort specifically would target invasive weeds and garbage trapping underbrush.

Boy Scout troops, local garden clubs and other organizations could be brought aboard for the program, he said.

"There are many (groups) that would pitch in to make our community a more beautiful and attractive place from the inside out," said Morris, who was unsuccessful when he ran in a Republican congressional primary in 2008.

Kovarik and Morris disagree on several issues, such as how budgeting is done for village departments, red-light cameras and a marketing campaign funded with public money.

Morris said he'd work to stop Gurnee's overall budget from increasing each year. If elected mayor, Morris said, he would push to enact 15 percent across-the-board budget cuts, and institute hiring and wage freezes while directing more financial resources to public safety.

Kovarik said she and village employees would continue constantly seeking to offset increased costs that are outside of their control. She said managing expenses has been a daily activity for the village in the eight years she's been mayor, with moves including job consolidation and postponement of capital improvements and purchases.

Morris said he believes Gurnee's red-light cameras are bad for business in a tourism-oriented village and that a three-year contract should be allowed to expire so they go away. Kovarik contends the devices have improved intersection safety and should stay in place.

Kovarik said the "Gurnee's Got It!" marketing campaign has helped village businesses, while Morris said he'd look to end it because there is no documented evidence it's worked. Morris contends the village has spent $140,000 on the program over three years, but Kovarik said the total is $67,000.

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