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Article updated: 7/26/2013 3:38 PM

Defunct facade improvement program to return to Fox Lake in 2013

By Lee Filas

Fox Lake village officials say they will restart a defunct financial assistance program for local businesses to help spruce up the town.

Trustees have approved earmarking $44,000 to the previously dormant facade improvement program, as a way to encourage business and property owners to improve their storefronts.

Mayor Donny Schmit said village leaders are researching how to redesign the program to best dole out the money to property owners. The goal, he said, is to roll out the revamped program by the end of summer.

"We wanted to bring the facade program back in order to improve the appearance of the town," Schmit said. "The village has hired a new marketing development company to make the town more attractive to developers, and this program will help."

Funding to restart the program is included in the village's 2013-14 fiscal budget, which was approved earlier this month, Schmit said.

He added the village planning board is reviewing the decade-old program guidelines to redefine what is a "facade" and determine where the money would best be spent.

"The ordinance we have in place for the program is outdated and needs to be reviewed before we make the program available," Schmit said. "It's all designed to bring more development and money into the village."

Of the total $44,000 allocated, $14,000 will be spent to get the program up and running, with the rest to be given to participating property owners.

"The early idea is to refund businesses a maximum of $3,000 for work they perform on their facades," he said. "This way, 10 businesses in town can take advantage of the program."

The original facade improvement program was scrapped in 2008 under former Mayor Cindy Irwin due to a lack of funds. Under the program developed in 2002, the village was giving $5,000 to any downtown business to spruce up storefronts.

More than 30 businesses took advantage of the money in the six years the program was in place.

Linnea Pioro, executive director of the Fox Lake Chamber of Commerce, said the facade program will be welcomed back warmly by business owners.

"As long as the village has the money, I think it's a great idea," Pioro said. "This will go a long way to making everything look nicer and more appealing. I think the business owners will really be happy about it."

Schmit added that revenue collected from video gambling will help offset facade program costs and the hiring of the marketing development company.

"Video gambling is doing real well in town," he said. "We expected a total revenue of $12,000 a year from video poker, but we collected $9,000 last month."

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