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updated: 6/18/2013 6:02 PM

Elgin expecting visit from sister city delegation

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A delegation from Elgin's sister city in Chile is expected to visit Elgin over the Fourth of July holiday, though it remains unclear who will pay for its stay.

Elgin Fire Lt. Robert Bedard said the group from Cauquenes would comprise up to seven people, including the future mayor and the regional superintendent of firefighters.

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Initially, the delegation numbered 14 people. Lodging and meals were estimated to cost up to $10,000, Bedard said. The delegation will pay for its own airfare, he said.

Several delegation members, though, decided against traveling because of delays in getting U.S. visas, and concurrent increases in airfare prices, he said. Bedard said he is working with U.S. Rep. Tammy Duckworth's office to expedite the visa process.

Partners including Advocate Sherman Hospital, Gail Borden Public Library and Grand Victoria Casino have offered to provide some meals, he said.

A corporate sponsor is considering covering the cost of discounted lodging at the Holiday Inn in Elgin, plus the remaining meals, a total of $5,000 or so, Bedard said. "I'm doing my best on my end to make sure the city doesn't have to pay for any of this," he said.

Still, Bedard said he hopes the city would "come through" if some financial contribution is needed. Expenses of up to $20,000 don't require city council approval.

Councilman John Prigge doesn't want Elgin to spend any money to host the Chilean delegation. Prigge asked for the topic to be placed on the next city council meeting's agenda.

"I advocate public/private partnerships and sponsors. There should be enough checkbooks to leave the taxpayers alone," he said.

A major component of sister cities' relationships is creating economic opportunities, Councilman Rich Dunne pointed out.

"(Cauquenes has) huge opportunities in agricultural exports -- nuts, wine, olives," he said. "We're a market for them."

Local entities might be interested in doing business with Chile, too, he said.

Prigge also objected to an initial plan of having the mayor of Cauquenes as grand marshal at Elgin's Fourth of July parade. The new plan has the Chilean delegation participating in the parade.

"Before we consider having somebody else from another country as our grand marshal on a holiday celebrating our independence, we could easily find a lot of takers with our VFW and our American Legion (chapters)," Prigge said.

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