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updated: 2/13/2014 5:02 PM

Former Gurnee Mayor 'surprised' at plan to put his name on plaza

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  • Richard Welton

      Richard Welton

 
 

Gurnee's longest-serving mayor says he's "surprised and pleased" at a proposal for construction of a village plaza that would carry his name.

Mayor Kristina Kovarik said she'll recommend a long-vacant 1-acre site on Old Grand Avenue become the Richard A. Welton Village Plaza, which would include markers indicating Gurnee milestones. That area, just east of the Des Plaines River, is Gurnee's original section known as village center.

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Kovarik will unveil a site plan and artist's renderings at a village board meeting at 7:30 p.m. Monday. Trustees will vote to adopt a resolution placing Welton's name on the parcel.

Welton, 71, a lifelong Gurnee resident, said he learned about the plan to have the plaza named for him Tuesday when he met with Kovarik and Trustee Cheryl Ross. Ross led a committee that brainstormed ideas for the site where Gurnee police headquarters stood until 2004.

"I was surprised and pleased that this committee had come up with that idea," he said Thursday.

Welton, who plans to be at Monday's meeting, was mayor from 1973 to 2001. He served during the village's major growth spurt, which included Six Flags Great America, Gurnee Mills and several residential subdivisions.

During the period of rapid development, Welton said, the goal was to make Gurnee a balanced place where someone could live, work and play. He said Gurnee continues to do well with a good village board and employees.

While retired, Welton has kept busy with board positions at the Pace suburban bus agency, Lake County Transportation Alliance and the condominium association where he lives. He lost his mayoral post to Trustee Donald Rudny, who was knocked out by Kovarik after one 4-year term.

As for the plaza, it would include bronze markers that note Gurnee milestones and provide a sense of history. Kovarik said she hopes it'll be fully constructed within three years.

Controversy had marred the property, which had been pegged for a memorial to troops who died in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Plans for the taxpayer-owned land have been on hold since 2010, when former Trustee Kirk Morris sued the village after his private foundation was removed as leader of the Heroes of Freedom Memorial Park effort. Morris and Kovarik began publicly feuding in 2009 after she accused his foundation of being incapable of building the memorial.

Under a lawsuit settlement approved in 2013, Gurnee's insurance carrier paid $200,000 to the ex-trustee's Pfc. Geoffrey Morris Memorial Foundation for design work and other improvements the group made to the public land. The foundation was named for Morris' son, a Marine killed in Iraq in 2004.

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