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posted: 4/4/2013 4:00 PM

Fox Lake mayoral candidates spar over business

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Fox Lake mayoral candidate Donny Schmit said he has heard from business up and down Route 12 and Grand Avenue that the current administration has left them behind.

But, incumbent Mayor Ed Bender said his "bread and butter" is small business, and that he has bent over backward to assist existing business owners and bring in new sales tax revenue.

Schmit, a 59-year-old business owner, is facing off against Bender, a 75-year-old retired executive, in Tuesday's municipal election.

Bender leads the Focused on Fox Lake slate, made up of incumbent trustees Valerie Griseta, Kevin Burt and Jon Mumford, and incumbent clerk Kimberly Mate. Schmit heads the Common Sense Party, featuring trustee candidates Ron Stochl, Bernice Konwent and Jeff Jensen, and clerk candidate Niki Warden. Trustee candidate, Bob Hoffman, is running as an independent.

Bender said he has personally worked recently to keep two businesses in Fox Lake that were on the verge of shipping out, then also helped guide Thorntons Gas Station to Route 12 and Grand Avenue.

"I have said this many times, and almost every trustee -- including my opponent -- has agreed with me; we weren't happy about another gas station on Route 12, but it was better than the vacant building that had been there for five years," he said. "Is it the best choice for that corner? Probably not. But how long do you want to look at a big empty building as you drive into town."

Schmit voted in favor of the gas station, but he voted against giving the gas station developers $150,000 in sales tax incentives at the property.

Under the current agreement with developers, the village receives the first $150,000 in sales tax annually, then splits any sales tax for the next five years, or until the developer receives a refund of $150,000.

Schmit said he voted against the sales tax incentives because the village was bending over backward to take care of new business at the expense of older, existing businesses.

"Business owners in Fox Lake have been asking for the facade program to come back, but the village claims they haven't had the money for it," he said. "But, then, we give $150,000 in sales tax back to Thorntons."

He added that he has spoken with many business owners, and many are dissatisfied.

"The businesses that I've talked to feel neglected by this administration and are not being heard," Schmit said. "I walk up and down Fox Lake, they all talk to me, and they are dissatisfied with this current administration."

Bender disagrees.

"My bread and butter all my life was small business," he said. "Small business is the backbone of America."

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