A Carpentersville commission has approved spending $30,000 to hire a consultant they say would create recreational opportunities along the Fox River and improve the village's image by rebranding it as a hometown on the Fox -- moves officials hope would attract commercial investment.
Tuesday, the village's audit and finance commission endorsed setting the money aside for next year's budget. The village board will have the final say on whether that expense goes through when trustees vote on the budget in April.
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Village President Ed Ritter called the proposed expenditure a good step for the village, especially since, aside from roadwork, officials haven't invested much in the village itself in years.
"Just fixing the streets doesn't change the attitude of the people," Ritter said.
Bill Hicks, a member of the business development commission that presented the information Tuesday, envisions a plan that evolves, is implemented over long periods of time, and includes public and private partnerships, particularly where property along the river is concerned.
The consultant would identify stakeholders and a group to create and implement the river plan, set up project-related meetings, and coordinate lobbying efforts to secure money for the project.
Trustee Kay Teeter pointed out that everyone in the room has probably visited riverwalks and ridden their bikes along the river in other communities. Carpentersville should offer similar amenities, she said.
"We want them to come and hang here," Teeter said.
Hicks' study said if the village is interested in attracting new businesses, it needs to use economic incentives to lure them there, offer better transportation options, form partnerships with local colleges to offer the GED and other training for residents, offer new housing options, improve the quality of life in the village, and improve the village's image.
On the upside, the village has a low crime rate and, according to Trustee Paul Humpfer, already plans on meeting with Elgin Community College on the education piece.
But Carpentersville struggles with a low median income, a significant percentage of people without high school diplomas (29 percent), high population densities in the village's poorest areas, a paucity of financial resources, and what Hicks called the village's "negative community image."
"That really hurts us in terms of attracting retailers," Hicks said.
The village's image has taken a hit in recent years.
Its previously rowdy board meetings with trustees arguing with each other and the former village president are posted on YouTube for the world to see.
Several trustees also unsuccessfully tried to penalize landlords and employers who rented to or hired undocumented immigrants.
Most recently, the full-time firefighters have started questioning the village over the planned layoff of two firefighters.
Union President Lt. Rick Nieves and four other firefighters attended Tuesday's audit and finance commission meeting and quietly watched the proceedings.
While Nieves doesn't have a problem with the proposed $30,000 expenditure to hire the consultant, the village should make public safety more of a priority, he said.
"Obviously, we support the village trying to do better, but obviously, public safety's first for us," Nieves said.