Experience-heavy incumbents, political newcomer spar for three Vernon Hills trustee seats
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The election for three seats on the Vernon Hills village board features a political novice facing incumbents with more than a half-century of combined experience.
Ted Sindermann, a residential heating contractor and owner of Sintrol Systems Inc., says he has no beef with the board but contends a different perspective is in order.
"I respect the board, I do. I'm not trying to reform the board. I've always said I want to refresh it," he said.
The incumbents are: Thom Koch Jr., a teacher who is seeking a sixth term; Barbara Williams, a location manager for a bus company, who served on the village board from 1981 to 1993, including four years as mayor, and as a trustee since 2001; and, James Schultz, a consultant and retired distribution engineering manager, who has served since 2005.
They say there are initiatives like the Westfield Hawthorn mall expansion they want to complete and others to pursue.
The following information is from interviews with the candidates and their responses to a Daily Herald questionnaire.
All candidates agree the proposed expansion and renovation of the Westfield Hawthorn mall is important and rebating a portion of new sales tax generated as a result of the improvements is an appropriate incentive.
While Sindermann questioned the number of empty storefronts in the general commercial areas of the community, incumbents defended the village's record of filling vacancies and keeping a handle on existing and new businesses.
Incumbents also defended a recent decision to loan the Vernon Hills Park District $2.2 million to buy the former YMCA building. Sinderman, who lists curbing spending as a goal, questioned the move.
"The YMCA deal seemed to spark a lot of tension with a lot of people. I made a comment we're not the federal government and they're not GM. It should have went out to referendum," he said. "It's still our money and just because you have it doesn't mean you have to spend it."
Koch said he heard the opposite and that people liked the outcome.
"We didn't have time (for a referendum). The YMCA dropped it on us. If that had gone dark, you never would have gotten it back. We got a $4 million to $6 million asset for $2 million," he said. The loan allowed for expansion of park district offerings and "made so much sense" for the community, he added.
Williams questioned what would have happened if the village hadn't stepped in. She said the indoor pool was a great amenity.
"We didn't give the money away. It's a loan. It still has to be repaid," she said.
Schultz said the YMCA kept its financial difficulties close to the vest. He said the village has managed its funds well and was able to help preserve a "very, very valuable amenity."
Sindermann said supporting local business is his top priority. He noted there are many empty storefronts in buildings owned by one real estate management company.
"Why are they leaving? We need to be in closer contact with them," he said. He also mentioned Walmart's proposed departure as a concern.
Village officials say they have worked for years to keep Walmart by expanding or relocating the existing store, but it has been determined to be too costly.
"We're working very hard. We have an excellent staff that stays in touch with companies and looks for new companies," Schultz said. While Walmart is expected at some point to leave, the village is working with the retailer to minimize any potential sales tax losses, he added.
Williams said the village can't afford to let any buildings sit empty.
"We're very aggressive, I think," she said, adding Assistant Village Manager John Kalmar "works miracles" in that regard.
Koch disagreed with Sindermann's characterization of empty storefronts, saying the village has filled vacancies small and large with new users such as Tiger Direct, Steinhafels furniture, h.h. gregg, Chick-fil-A and several others.
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