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updated: 11/17/2013 9:57 AM

Nonprofits tell Elgin 'We need funding'

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The Elgin Public Museum is in dire financial straits and needs the city's help, its executive director said during a public budget hearing on Saturday.

Peggie Stromberg was among 47 people who addressed the Elgin City Council during a three-and-a-half hour meeting packed by a crowd of about 175 at the The Centre of Elgin. Most were clients and staff members of Elgin-based nonprofits who advocated allocating funds to their organizations.

The museum has cut staff and services, but that hasn't been enough, Stromberg said.

"We are right at the edge of going under with what we have from our reserve fund," she said.

Elgin Mayor David Kaptain said the city needs to honor its obligation to help maintain the museum.

"I think that funding needs to be re-established," he said.

Before the recession, the city contributed $100,000 a year to the museum's operations, but that was down to about $56,000 in 2013, Stromberg said. The museum's operating expenses are about $130,000 annually, and there is about $19,000 left in reserves, she said.

Stromberg said she maintains a positive attitude. "It is serious, but I'm sure we'll manage somehow."

Elgin's proposed 2014 budget includes $200,000 in grants for nonprofit organizations and $50,000 for arts organizations, all from revenues stemming from Grand Victoria Casino.

Danise Habun, chairwoman of the city's human relations commission, asked the council to raise the nonprofit allocation to $500,000.

"These folks provide the necessary safety net," she said.

Many spoke in support of the Boys & Girls Club of Elgin and the Elgin Theatre Company.

"It's about equipping (youth) with the necessary resources to succeed and have a safe place to grow," Boys & Girls club site director Angel Pedraza said.

Jack Werner, a young actor with Children's Theatre of Elgin & Fox Valley Theatre Company, praised the program.

"The kids that you see are going to grow up bright, outgoing, and very smart and very creative people," he said.

Others who spoke were representatives of Elgin Youth Symphony Orchestra, Ecker Center for Mental Health, Community Crisis Center, Family Service Association of Greater Elgin Area, and YMCA's branch in Elgin.

"I would encourage continued support of those organizations. Without them, Elgin isn't the community that we know and love," Elgin resident Vicki Montgomery said.

Resident Armida Dominguez asked for a citywide survey that was put on hold earlier this year after some city council members deemed the nearly $40,000 price tag too steep.

"Elgin is so big, and I'm wondering if you're really making the effort to reach out to the different cultures that we have in this community," she said.

Resident Carl Missele asked the city to budget money to address stormwater management issues that lead to detention pond problems. The city council decided not to impose a new stormwater fee on residents on 2014, but Missele said he's in favor of the fee.

Terry Gabel, president of Friends of Lords Park Zoo, asked the city for $16,000 for a pilot program to bring farm animals back to the zoo. The zoo would contribute $8,000, and it would continue the initiative only if it's deemed sustainable in the long-term, he said.

Elgin should create quiet zones along railroad lines, residents Rick Poulton and Todd Martin said.

Martin, who said his father was killed at a train crossing, said quiet zones come with safety improvements like raised medians and side barricades. They would also encourage residents to move downtown, he added.

Tom Armstrong, chairman of Elgin's bicycle and pedestrian advisory committee, asked the city to host an open house to gauge support for a project to create bike lanes in the southwest quadrant of town.

The city has budgeted more than $1 million in 2014 for the project, which he called "arguably the most beneficial" in the city's Bikeway Master Plan.

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