Nine Lake Zurich village board trustee candidates have unique ideas they'd like to pursue if elected, from an indoor ice rink to construction of an aquatic center.
Political newcomers Helmut Gerlach, Todd Minden and Ildiko Schultz are on the April 9 ballot for three, 4-year seats as members of Mayor Suzanne Branding's United Lake Zurich slate. They have competition from incumbent Jeffrey Halen and newcomer Daniel Stanovich -- both are loosely aligned with current trustee and mayoral candidate Tom Poynton -- and political novices Jim Beaudoin and Geoffrey Petzel.
First-time candidates Debra Vander Weit of United Lake Zurich and Mark Loewes, who also is connected to Poynton, are running for an unexpired 2-year term. Mary Black is the third mayoral candidate.
All of the trustee candidates recently addressed village issues in Daily Herald editorial board endorsement interviews and on questionnaires. One question the nine candidates addressed was whether they have a good idea no one else is talking about.
Vander Weit, a financial services consultant and real-estate broker, said she believes the village should pursue the indoor arena for hockey and figure skating programs for all ages. She said such a facility would benefit a family-oriented, sports-minded community.
"In addition to the property tax revenues, this facility would generate revenues from the sale of ice time to surrounding community hockey teams, classes and concessions. It would also create additional jobs in the community," Vander Weit said.
Loewes, a sales manager, said his idea involves working to return money to Lake Zurich Unit District 95 that it has lost due to the village's special downtown taxing zone that was designed to give developers a financial incentive to rejuvenate the area. Doing so, he said, would "enable our schools to continue our fine arts programs and possibly reinstate the activity bus and other programs that enrich our children's lives."
Beaudoin, a business owner, said he wants to explore creation of a stand-alone park district, as a taxing agency separate from village government. He said better facilities could result from a park district with its own revenue and taxing powers.
"As a child, I enjoyed growing up in Elk Grove (Village) that has one of the finest park districts and subsequent facilities," Beaudoin said. "As a coach, I envision that the creation of an independent district would allow the growth of our current programs and facilities for the entire village.
Gerlach, a lawyer, said while Lake Zurich has beaches, a year-round aquatic facility would create jobs, opportunities for competitive events and allow residents to swim regardless of weather. He said it could be a joint project with Lake Zurich Unit District 95.
"This can be integrated as part of the long-term plan attracting businesses for and the development of downtown or the community at large," Gerlach said.
Halen, a trustee since 2009, said no one is mentioning a return to the basics. By that, he said, he means village officials must make a better effort at communicating with residents.
"This starts with providing information to the community so everyone knows what is happening in town," Halen said. "It is unfortunate that the village does not provide quality updates on key items of public interest. A place to start improving the communication is at board meetings where public comments, board discussions and updates have been limited and discouraged. Even in the Newsline, the village's newspaper, most articles are recycled from prior editions instead of providing new and relevant updates."
Minden said he'd like to see more restaurants, sports facilities, live music, sidewalks and bicycle paths.
"Everyone has ideas that they would like to see, but our needs have to come first," said Minden, a marketing professional. "I have heard many creative ideas that people have experienced in other communities."
Petzel, a salesman and business owner, said the village should respond more efficiently to resident requests or complaints. He said his experience with village hall has been a "very slow or nonexistent" response time when he's voiced concern about potholes, code violations and water main breaks.
"I would like to see the village create a dedicated phone number for citizen complaints/concerns and make it a policy that all issues are responded to within 24 hours," Petzel said. "If a citizen calls about a pothole, the pothole should be fixed within 24 hours."
Schultz, an operational accounting director, said more use of village parks should be encouraged. She said possibilities include an outdoor ice rink, art festivals, winter sports events and music that could be offered at reasonable prices.
"As long as we break even, we should do what we can to use the parks on a year-round basis," Schultz said.
On a similar note, Stanovich said as part of Lake Zurich's economic development efforts, opportunities should be sought to get more out of publicly-owned property such as Paulus Park.
"We have a large piece of lakefront property there that is largely underutilized today," said Stanovich, an account executive. "I believe our residents would welcome further development of that property for recreational and entertainment purposes.
"I would recommend the development of an advisory board of residents to look at this opportunity and generate ideas that they feel would benefit the village and its residents."