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Article posted: 3/23/2013 8:00 AM

Pingree Grove candidates talk issues

Bruce Barnes

Bruce Barnes

 
Lon Czarnecki

Lon Czarnecki

 
Rich Eckert

Rich Eckert

 
Ray LaMarca

Ray LaMarca

 
Joe Nowosielski

Joe Nowosielski

 
Charles Pearson

Charles Pearson

 
Patrick Whalen

Patrick Whalen

 
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The eight candidates running for three spots on the Pingree Grove village board have a range of opinions about the village's financial decisions and possible plans for a new building to combine the village hall and public works.

Incumbent Joshua Cossiboon is not seeking re-election.

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Bruce Barnes, 57, a senior network planning engineer, said mosquito abatement services should be eliminated, and overtime costs for departments such as public works should be curbed, perhaps by adding a weekend day to staff schedules. He also wants to reduce taxes if possible, particularly Special Service Area (SSA) obligations. As for the public works facility, he'd set aside money to hire an engineering firm to do a study. "We need to start small and scale up as the need presents itself," he said.

Lon Czarnecki, 45, who owns an advertising agency, said the village hiked taxes "in a huge way" when it increased telecommunications and sewer taxes and implemented a new natural gas tax in 2011. He said he wants to find ways to save in order to abate those tax increases. He suggested hiring interns to work in the water and public works departments. He doesn't want to spend money for an oversized public works building. "I'm very against spending anything to the extent we did for the police station (built in 2008)," he said.

Rich Eckert, 68, a computer consultant and member of the village's planning and zoning commission, said it's imperative to bring new businesses to the village. He said the 2011 increase in taxes was "a tough call," but the amount -- less than $20 per month on average -- wasn't exorbitant. The village is getting close to needing a new public works facility, but, "Then again, where are we going to come up with the money?" he asked, pointing out Pingree Grove is still paying for the police department building.

• Incumbent Ray LaMarca, 40, a systems engineer manager, was appointed in 2011. His priority is to push for long-term budget planning, he said, including saving money to pay for more than $1 million the village still owes for the construction of the police department building. The village is close to needing a public works building, but should be smart about putting it to the best possible use. "What else could we do with it? Can we consolidate village hall into part of it? " he asked. "We have to look at current costs."

Joe Nowosielski, 33, a sales consultant and member of the village's planning and zoning commission, said the village board partially balanced the budget last year on residents' backs via tax increases. Nowosielski said he wouldn't support any more tax increases, although he thinks Pingree Grove needs a playground. He said the village definitely needs a new public works building, but doesn't have the money right now.

Charles Pearson, 64, a retired systems software analyst, said his priority is to ensure controlled growth for the village in future years. He said the village needs a park district. He said the village should look at building a small public works building at first, with the goal of enlarging it in three to five years. Communicating with residents is key, Pearson said. "If you lay the groundwork properly ... that's really what's going to make the people understand why we need to spend all this money on this new building."

• Incumbent Steve Wiedmeyer, who has served since 1996, said the village most urgently needs a salt storage facility, because the current arrangement -- in place for the last several years -- was supposed to be temporary. Although Pingree Grove would benefit from having more businesses, there's only so much the village board can do, he said. "It's easy to say you're going to sweet-talk the big box stores, grocery stores. We've been talking to them for years."

Patrick Whalen, 57, a heavy equipment operator, said his primary goal is to decrease property taxes.

He said he would make up for the loss of revenues by cutting police salaries, and perhaps look into employing auxiliary police officers.

The police building should be split in half to house village hall, and the public works department could move into the current fire station when the new fire station is built at Reinking Road and Route 72, he said.

Whalen served for one year as a Rutland Township trustee until he resigned for personal reasons in 2010.

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